Innovative and entrepreneurial students earn start-up cash

Next Generation Recycling's Charlie Beaulieu and Tye McAlister recieve a $10,000 grant from Terri Benson, Jeff Benson and Jerry Gartley of JMH.

The goal of Mount Royal’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is to, “graduate the most entrepreneurial minds in Canada,” says Director Ray DePaul, and, “to provide students with the education and experience necessary to help transform imaginative ideas into real impact.”

Mount Royal’s most inventive minds were put to the test at the second annual JMH Venture LaunchPad Pitch Competition, held on March 25 at the Ross Glen Hall in the Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning. Six teams of student competitors from various departments at the university each had five minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs and investors in the hopes of snagging some of the total of $55,000 available.

More than 150 spectators took in this Dragons’ Den-style contest, where after completion of their presentation a judging panel of experts peppered the contestants with questions about the viability of their businesses, the chance for future growth and the feasibility of the technology involved. The panel included Stephen Guppy, a $10,000 winner from last year’s LaunchPad and founder and CEO of, Brad Johns of Yaletown Venture Partners,  Victoria MacLean, serial entrepreneur and co-founder and CMO of Beaucoo, Terry Sydoryk, serial entrepreneur and COO of Chaordix and DePaul.

Honoured by the invitation to judge, Guppy says that the progression within a year, from being a participant to one of the winners to a judge, means a lot to him. Impressed with the caliber of the contestants, Guppy noticed an increase in the value of the companies presenting over last year and double the attendance in the audience.

“What Mount Royal is doing is unbelievable for entrepreneurialism. The drive that comes with wanting to create a business is essential to be successful in a corporation,” he says.

What was at stake…

Stefan Radeta and Derek Rucki of TLink are presented $10,000 in pro bono legal services from Julie D'Avignon and Brad Squibb of Stikeman Elliott.

LaunchPad is made possible through a generous donation of $250,000 over five years from the accounting firm of JMH & Co. After doling out $15,000 to competitors for the institute’s LaunchPad Readiness program, $35,000 was available to be won at the event. Each team could earn a maximum of $10,000 each from JMH, which then could be topped off by subsequent awards such as $10,000 from law firm Stikeman Elliott for legal services, $5,000 from the BUSY foundation for the venture with the most chance of success and $5,000 from Design4Change for marketing. JMH is a three-office accounting firm located in Brooks, Medicine Hat and Calgary.

“We wanted to be involved in something long-term in a post-secondary educational setting, and we wanted to do something that involved the students directly,” says Terri Benson, JMH event coordinator. “It’s working out to be a program that we’re really glad we got started.”

Businesses looking to take off

Ventures included student Zishan Kassam’s Intuitive Data Solutions, which turns paper receipts digital for franchises and smaller retailers, removing the need to store them for years while also providing valuable analytics about their customers.

TableTap by students Claire Chappel, Robert Kennard, Brianna McCrae and Karissa Savage is an order-taking application that allows restaurant servers to use a tablet to take and send orders straight to the kitchen.

Peak Ayre's Dustin Paisley and Alistair Shipley are granted $7,500 for product development by JMH.

Next Generation Recycling, founded by students Charlie Beaulieu and Tye McAllistar, uses the waste by-product of paper mills to create a clean, healthy and environmentally friendly livestock bedding product.
Students David Bennett, Andrew Birkett and Danish Haider developed Well Tell, which provides a wireless real-time alarm system that dramatically reduces the cost associated with monitoring low-production marginal oil and gas wells.

TLink Golf by students Derek Rucki and Stefan Radeta sells a small lightweight device that displays golf yardages from a golf GPS app on your smartphone.

And Peak Ayre by Alistair Shipley and Dustin Paisley is in the midst of launching an innovative tent design that will address the comfort and ease-of-use that family campers demand.

Paisley explains the process as requiring a lot of input from the public.

“So what you do is you test your idea. You talk to a whole bunch of other people and if they have the same problem, great, you’ve just validated your assumption, and you can move forward with your venture,” he says. “What the Entrepreneurship program at Mount Royal does is it teaches you about the mindset. It’s about recognizing opportunities where other people see problems.”

LaunchPad Award recipients

The results were announced shortly after the competition, and the winners were:

  • TLink Golf took home $10,000 from JMH, $10,000 from Stikeman Elliott, $5,000 from the BUSY Foundation and $5,000 from Design4Change for a total of $30,000 to be used for finishing development, legal services and design talent.
  • Next Generation Recycling was awarded $10,000 from JMH, which will be put towards increasing production and furthering the development of their proprietary sludge management process.
  • Peak Ayre earned $7,500 for product development and the launch of their first model.
  • And Well Tell was given $7,500 to tackle initial financial hurdles.
 Well Tell is awarded $7,500 from JMH to take care of initial financial hurdles.

In addition to providing financial support to the new ventures, LaunchPad also provides high-quality mentorship and instruction along the way.

“Mount Royal has been displaying in handfuls that this is the school to come if you want to be good at business. You have to come here,” says Guppy.

March 27, 2014 — Michelle Bodnar