Recap: TEC VenturePrize 2014

Local entrepreneurs were celebrated tonight at the 12th annual TEC VenturePrize awards celebration in Hall D at the Shaw Conference Centre. More than $200,000 in prizes were handed out to the nine finalists across three competitions!

TEC VenturePrize 2014

Here’s what VenturePrize is all about:

“You have a business idea, but don’t necessarily have the business training to launch your company. The more you brainstorm about transforming your vision into a venture, the more questions you have. What are the legal issues with creating a company? Where is the financing going to come from? Am I targeting the right market? Find out by participating in the TEC VenturePrize business plan competition.”

It’s a great opportunity for participants to make connections with investors and other entrepreneurs, to learn more about what it takes to run a business, and to gain valuable insight from experienced mentors.

TEC VenturePrize 2014

Our host for the evening was Ryan Jespersen from BT Edmonton. Premier Dave Hancock opened the event bringing greetings on behalf of the Province, followed by TEC Edmonton CEO Chris Lumb who brought opening remarks and also presented the Recognition Award to Bob Teskey. His acceptance speech was about twelve seconds long, which helped to contribute to a timely program that finished slightly ahead of schedule.

“Bob envisioned and designed the TEC Edmonton structure: an unincorporated Joint Venture to create strong commitment among Joint Venture partners, enable the University and City ti work together in unique ways, and build linkages between university and community.

This award is presented in recognition of Bob’s role in growing a strong Edmonton, through his outstanding ability to forge institutional partnerships.”

Mayor Iveson was the next speaker. He talked about the changing energy in Edmonton, and said “it’s getting easier to make an idea reality in this city.” Mayor Iveson stayed on stage to help interview the three student competition finalists: AlieoGames, Livi Design, and Smart Count Health. All three were from the University of Alberta!

TEC VenturePrize 2014

This year TELUS came on board to sponsor the first ever ICT Competition at VenturePrize. We heard pitches from the three finalists: It’s Date Night, MyMenu, and Zayfti. You can learn more about each one at TEC Edmonton. Given the ridiculous state of online restaurant menus, I really hope that Edmonton-based MyMenu is successful in its quest to help diners with dietary restrictions. It’ll be tough to get restaurants to upload menus though when so many don’t even keep their own sites up-to-date!

TEC VenturePrize 2014

Since 2002, the Fast Growth competition has awarded more than $1.5 million to Alberta-based entrepreneurs to help them grow their companies, an impressive number of which are still operating! The finalists in this year’s competition were:

Belgravia Tech Inc.

“BTI has created a safe, reliable, and cost effective alternative to a nuclear reactor-generated medical isotope vital for timely diagnosis and management of patient treatment for many major health issues, including cancer and heart problems. BTI’s unique technology is well positioned to fill this critical need and provide healthcare organizations with the means to offer quality care for heart and cancer patients worldwide.”

Localize Services Inc.

“Localize in an Edmonton-based company that helps tell the stories behind the foods we all love. Their unique grocery-shelf labeling service rapidly collects and conveys product information to consumers, making it easy for grocers anywhere to launch local, regional, and domestic food campaigns in their stores. These smartphone-enabled tags and unique “Localize scores” empower shoppers to quickly learn the who, what, where, and how behind thousands of products on grocery shelves across Canada.”


“Tactalis develops amazing tactile tablet computer systems that help people who are blind or visually impaired to explore, create and share images and digital media that they cannot see. Each of their award winning products has a unique touch sensitive interface and embedded tactile display that lets users touch and feel physical representations of features, symbols and graphics on an LCD screen.”

All very interesting companies with great elevator pitches! I think the work that Localize is doing is really important and they delivered a really clear message to the audience this evening. Tactalis has such an interesting product – think of it like braille for the digital era. I can see a huge market for what they’re doing!

TEC VenturePrize 2014

Up next was the keynote speaker, Dianne Buckner. She spoke about the art of the pitch, giving the judges an opportunity to leave the room to make their final deliberations. As the host of CBC’s Dragon’s Den and as a member of the Business Team at CBC News, Dianne knows a thing or two about pitching. Her advice tonight? Do tell a story, don’t let a “dragon” discourage you, do align your goals with those of the person you’re pitching, and don’t be afraid to talk about your weaknesses. She also said to keep in mind that the first thing you’re pitching is always yourself – if they aren’t interested in you or don’t think you’re competent, why would they be interested in your product or service?

TEC VenturePrize 2014

Finally, it was time to find out the winners!

Edmonton Journal People’s Choice Award
Localize Services Inc., with 59.5% of the vote

TEC VenturePrize Student Business Plan Award

VenturePrize TELUS Information & Communication Technology Award

TEC VenturePrize Fast Growth Grand Prize Award
Localize Services Inc.

It was a big night for Startup Edmonton, as all of the winners and many of the finalists had a connection in some form or another to the organization. It’s great to see the continued positive momentum behind entrepreneurship in Edmonton!

TEC VenturePrize 2014

Congratulations to Localize and to all of the participants, finalists, and winners! Thanks to TEC Edmonton for providing me with a seat tonight to capture the action. You can see more photos from the evening here.

Imagine Cup goes green in 2008

Post ImageThe winners of Imagine Cup 2007 were announced yesterday in South Korea. The winning team in the Software Design invitational was from Thailand. The team members are: Prachaya Phaisanwiphatpong, Vasan Chienmaneetaweesin, Jatupon Sukkasem, Pathompol Saeng-Uraiporn.

Yeah, I don’t know how to say their names either! Imagine Cup is truly an international event. Dickson and I participated a few times, winning in Canada the first year back in 2003. The competition is for students, so I can’t compete anymore, but I still like to read about it.

Next year’s event will take place in Paris, France, and the theme is hardly surprising. Yep, you guessed it, Imagine Cup is going to tackle the environment in 2008: “imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment.”

Actually, that’s probably a fairly difficult theme for software development. It’s easy to come up with ideas for healthcare or education related software, but much more difficult to build something that helps the environment. Here’s a decent article on the topic.

Congrats to all the 2007 winners!

Read: Imagine Cup

VenturePrize 2007 with Leonard Brody

Post ImageEarlier today, Dickson and I attended the luncheon and awards ceremony for the 2007 VenturePrize business plan competition. As you probably know, we competed last year and narrowly missed out to ProExams (now ProTraining). The ProTraining guys invited us to join them at their table this year, and we happily accepted!

First of all, congratulations to the grand prize winner, Picomole Instruments, and to their competition – Business Infusions Inc. and Nirix Technology (I was pulling for Nirix as I had met and talked with CEO Steven Hsu in the past and was following their progress though the semi-finals). All of the elevator pitches and videos were very well done. In fact, I’d say the videos this year were far better than any of the videos created last year. Much flashier! The other big observation was that this year’s event seemed much smaller and a little more low-key than last year. I suspect this is because last year was extra special with the grand opening of Hall D.

The guest speaker today was Leonard Brody, who talked about Canada and entrepreneurship. Leonard is currently a director of NowPublic, a partner at Growthworks Capital, and has advised many of our country’s politicians. When he started his presentation, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be that good. That’s just the initial impression I got, perhaps because he was so distracted by the lapel microphone.

When he finally got things rolling though, I was impressed. He’s a great speaker and he’s obviously done his homework. Instead of sharing experiences however, Leonard chose to focus on statistics from recent research. Of course, statistics can be manipulated, so I took everything he said with a grain of salt. That said, he was pretty much preaching to the converted (at least with me). Some of the ideas he talked about:

  • In recent years, Canada is an economic wonder.
  • We need to do a better job of telling our story as Canadians.
  • Mobile phones are going to be huge.
  • My generation spends more time on media than work. And we have to multitask.
  • “Smart” is irrelevant.
  • Continuous partial attention (related to the multitasking).

Basically, the Gen-Yers and Millenials are taking over and they don’t do things the same way as previous generations. The workplace isn’t ready for them. And you should join Facebook (okay he didn’t say that exactly).

I’d say his presentation was the highlight of the afternoon for me. Like Dickson remarked, they needed “victory music” or something in the background when they announced the winner of the competition! The loud applause followed by silence was somewhat off-putting.

One final remark on the afternoon – lunch was delicious! And I actually ate it this year (too anxious last year to eat). The main course was Achiote Marinated Chicken Breast, Black Bean Orange Salsa, Basmati Rice, and Seasonal Vegetables. Dessert was good too: Mini Citrus Cheesecake on Rosemary Crust, topped with Brambleberry Compote and Orange Sour Cream Drizzle.

Congrats to Picomole, and thanks again to ProTraining for the invite.

Read: VenturePrize

Paramagnus in AlbertaVenture

Post ImageIf you pick up a copy of the July/August issue of AlbertaVenture magazine, you’ll find an article titled Entrepreneurial Idol, which is all about VenturePrize. While I think that title is better suited to the upcoming Dragon’s Den on CBC, the article is still really good. Indeed one of my favorite memories from the entire VenturePrize experience was talking with Marina. She has a knack for asking the right questions.

Here are a few notable quotes related to Paramagnus from the article:

“Sitting in the front row of Steier’s class are Mack Male and Dickson Wong, 22-year-olds who look like they’ve walked into the wrong classroom. But looks are deceiving; these whiz-kid computer undergrads at the U of A have already raised a hundred grand to fund their baby, Paramagnus Developments.”

“Last to go is Paramagnus which, because of Male and Wong’s youth, is the judges’ sentimental favourite.”

Marina ends the article with a quote from yours truly:

“I can’t believe how far we, and our business model, have evolved since day one of this competition. We’re going to go all the way.”

That sentiment is still true, even today. The story isn’t over yet though, not by a long shot. We’re inching closer and closer with each passing day to releasing Podcast Spot. And when that happens, we’ll really have something to be proud of!

Imagine Cup Canada 2006

Post ImageIt’s getting to be that time of year again! Microsoft’s annual Imagine Cup programming competition is starting to heat up, with thousands of students from around the world already registered. If you’re a Canadian looking to enter the Software Design Challenge, time is running out:

The Software Design Challenge is the most high profile Imagine Cup competition. This year, teams of young technologists are challenged to create the an innovative, impactful, and elegant piece of software to help people live healthier lives.

Register your team for the Software Design Challenge – you can register until April 7, 2006. Create your executive summary and submit it using the required submission template to by midnight April 7, 2006. THIS is all you need do to secure your team a place in the most high profile category of Imagine Cup 2006.

Having competed in the past, I can honestly say that the Imagine Cup is an excellent experience for students who want to do some .NET programming (as in my experience, most schools do not teach .NET or C# or anything related). In addition to the Software Design invitational, there are also invitationals for IT, Short Film, Algorithm, and Interface Designer, plus the Project Hoshimi Programming Battle. Lots of ways to participate!

I think Dickson and I will be entering a team again this year, as it is our last year of eligibility and we think we have a great idea too. Of course, it is related to podcasting, but that’s all I’ll say for now.

Read: Imagine Cup Canada

In Ottawa

Dickson and I arrived here in Ottawa this morning at 9:30 AM and quickly had to get to the hotel to get started for the Wes Nicol competition. It’s been a packed day, which I wrote about at our VenturePrize Experience blog. We think our presentation went very, very well!

We’re just waiting for the dinner to start now, which is where the winner will be announced. Following the dinner is a party, and then probably bedtime, considering we only slept around 4 hours yesterday and those 4 hours were on a plane. The good news is that we got our travel plans changed, so we are departing from Toronto on Sunday rather than from here tomorrow morning. Gives us time to make a few business calls in TO.

Anyway, will update more later. Wish us luck!

VenturePrize Finals Complete

Post ImageWe just got back from the final event, and unfortunately, we didn’t win. We’re really proud that we made it to the finals of VenturePrize however, and we have our sights set on the Wes Nicol competition tomorrow in Ottawa. Congratulations to Chris and Don at Leading Edge Technologies for winning this year’s competition.

We’ve got lots of pictures and stuff to post, and we’ll do that slowly over the next few days. Our flight to Ottawa leaves in about five hours, so we’re getting ready for that. We’re a little disappointed about VenturePrize obviously, but we’re going to take what we’ve learned and do our best tomorrow evening.

You can read my post on today’s event at our VenturePrize blog.

Read: VenturePrize Experience

VenturePrize Experience by Paramagnus

Post ImageDickson and I have been working on a blog specifically for VenturePrize (and Wes Nicol too) and it’s finally ready for public consumption! Basically you can read all about our experiences in the two competitions, starting way back in October 2005 when we first decided to take part in VenturePrize. The address is:

With the exception of the March posts, all entries have been posted after the fact. So a post from November was actually written in the last two weeks, even though the post itself seems like it was written in November. We did our best to go back in time and remember what we were thinking and feeling so that the blog is authentic. I don’t think we’ll be adding any more “back posts”, unless we remember something worth sharing, so the blog is “live” moving forward.

There are two main reasons for this blog. First and foremost, it is for us, so that we can look back and remember the experience. It should also come in handy when asked about timelines in the future, as it is often difficult to remember when things happened. The second reason is that we hope our experience will be useful to future participants of the VenturePrize and Wes Nicol competitions. Learn from our mistakes, and improve upon the things we did!

The blog is entirely comprised of text posts right now, but we’re planning to add some media content at some point too, podcasts, pictures, etc. Enjoy!

Read: VenturePrize Experience

Paramagnus and Business Plan Success

Post ImageEverything is public now, so it’s time for an update on our business plan competitions! As you may recall, Dickson and I entered Paramagnus into two business plan competitions – VenturePrize and Wes Nicol. We had back to back presentations in February, and have been waiting patiently to find out how we did. We’ve known for a couple days now, but it was announced today that we’re a finalist in the VenturePrize competition, and we won first place in the local portion of the Wes Nicol! Congratulations especially to our fellow finalists in VenturePrize, and indeed to all of the competitors we’ve met thus far. We’ve learned so much already!

We’re now preparing for the final VenturePrize showdown which takes place at the annual EEDC luncheon on March 22nd. We’ll be among the first people to see the brand new extension to the Shaw Conference Centre. The following day we need to be in Ottawa for the national component of the Wes Nicol competition, so it’ll be a very busy two days! We’re looking forward to it.

Actually the next few weeks will be busy. We did a brief interview tonight that will air on CBC Radio tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon we’re filming our three minute video that will be shown at the luncheon on the 22nd. We’re presenting to a class at the University next Friday. Over the next two weeks we’ll be putting together an “insider’s blog” for our experience in VenturePrize. And of course we’ve got to update our business plan, prepare our second presentations, and keep our business running (not to mention school, volunteering, etc). And it won’t stop there – we’ve already got interviews and the like lined up into April. Definitely good for the business!

We’ve met a lot of people lately, and while it was nice to meet all of you, sometimes it’s hard to get down contact information or remember everyone. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email or at 780.619.3864. Or of course you can simply subscribe πŸ™‚

Paramagnus Finalists in Wes Nicol Competition!

It’s been a great week for Paramagnus! On Wednesday it was announced that we were semi-finalists in the VenturePrize competition and last night we found out that we were selected as finalists for local part of the Wes Nicol Entrepreneurial Award, also a businss plan competition!

The Wes Nicol Entrepreneurial Award is a national non-profit competition designed to promote entrepreneurship with Canadian University students. Now in its 9th year, the program is launching its second national Wes Nicol Entrepreneurial Award ceremony, to be held March 23rd, 2006 in Ottawa.

We present to the judges on Saturday, and if we win the local competition we get to travel to Ottawa to compete against the rest of Canada. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited!

If you’re going to participate in a business plan competition, you might as well compete in another. There ends up being quite a bit of overlap in terms of the work you need to do, but you meet different people and learn different things from each.

Hopefully a week from now we’ll be making travel arrangements for our nation’s capital!

UPDATE [10:02 PM]: I fixed this post to say “semi-finalists in the VenturePrize competition” as I had erroneously put “finalists”. I’m getting ahead of myself πŸ™‚

Read: Wes Nicol