Today was Venture Day for the Next 36. This is a program that takes 36 of Canada’s finest undergraduate would-be entrepreneurs, puts them into teams, gives them starting capital and legal resources and teaches them business while they explore setting up their ventures. Today we got to take stock of where they had come in just 9 months.
In honor of that and in the spirit of the program, I thought I would give out some personal awards for some of the ventures. These awards highlight those who have taken a rigorous and careful approach to both ‘proof of concept’ and ‘strategic analysis’ in spending investor’s money and their own time.
Best Venture — Sensassure: This venture wins because it was willing to get into an unattractive area because their founders saw value to be created there. Their idea is to provide a disposable sensor for adult diapers to be used in nursing homes and for home care of the elderly. Basically, there are two big costs associated with diapers. First, changing them too often when they don’t need to be changed. Second, not changing them soon enough after an ‘insult’ (as they call it in the biz). Having a sensor that can detect the insult and send a message to nursing staff changes the game. Sensassure are currently running pilots on their disposable sensor solution that can be used with any diaper. So it is an independent product with its own mobile platform attached. The venture has been focussed from the start despite getting much initial negative feedback that it may be all ‘too hard.’ Personally, I think they are pioneers in the underwearables market.
Most Persistent Venture — Blynk: This venture’s idea was to use technology to help the fashion challenged obtain the services of the fashion enriched. I have to admit that I have been sceptical regarding whether this could be done. The venture looked at providing a platform to literally match the fashion enriched with the fashion challenged before turning to an app that is essentially ‘Tinder for fashion.’ What’s true is that they have stuck with this idea throughout and doggedly pushed ahead so much so that they won, the other week, a $100,000 start-up contest and have successfully launched an app showing considerable engagement. You can try it here. They have truly gone the extra mile in trying to see if their idea has legs.
- Gridcure: this is a venture that has worked out how to use data from smart electricity grids to better manage power supply, distribution leakage and myriad of other big data problems electricity networks should be pushing in to. They already have pilots in the field and, frankly, could easily have been the best venture (which they were officially at the Next 36). They have been consistently great throughout.
- Onyx Motion: this is a venture that uses a smart watch to measure your performance in sports and give users instant feedback as to how to improve. Their first application is basketball and, having tried it using an app on a Samsung Android Watch, I have to tell you that it is the first application for a Smart Watch that actually does something other things cannot do. Google/Android should take note!
There were many other promising ventures including a mobile device to help dentists ensure the longevity of their cavity restorations (based on actual science!), a venture that determines geographic market information into a useful form for real estate analysts, a ‘Secret’ for business, an app to help tenants report problems and communicate with landlords, a platform to provide intelligent financial analysis, a venture that uses a blimp to provide open event images to social media, and a platform to help parents find extra-curricular activities for children. All of them have some potential but were still working out some important kinks.
By the way, here were last year’s winners.