ICUBE hosts pitch competition and speaker series session

Ian Carnevale
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 10:43am
Sarah Jane Silva

ICUBE, an early-stage business accelerator founded by the Institute for Management & Innovation, recently invited guest speaker Ian Carnevale, co-founder and brand director for Andela, an organization that trains and pairs software developers with global tech firms, to its Entrepreneurship Showcase.

“Brilliance is evenly distributed but opportunity is not,” said UTM alumnus Carnevale during a casual and intimate Q&A session with Sam Dumcum, ICUBE' s program coordinator and event organizer. "People are paying attention to what’s happening on the African continent; the startups that are coming from there and the energy and capital that’s going in has grown tremendously over the last couple of years, and that’s helped to build up the ecosystem."

Founded in 2014 with its corporate headquarters in New York, Andela was recently backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV (Google Ventures) and Spark Capital, and has already raised $41M in seed capital.

“When we started Andela, there were four founders from four different countries: Canada; the United States; Nigeria; and Cameroon," explained Carnavale. "My partners grew up with vastly different backgrounds and had dramatically different upbringings but we cared about the same things."

"I'm a big believer in the diversity of thought," he continued. "We’ve brought different perspectives but have the same passions, philosophies and world views. I think that’s why the magic happened.”

Carnavale also credited his background in computer science and Digital Enterprise Management (DEM) from the University of Toronto Mississauga for his newfound success.

"When I was deciding what I wanted to do in school the biggest thing for me was to choose something that would give me the most exposure to the world of entrepreneurship," he said. "Although DEM was new at the time, it gave me the most amount of exposure to the skills that I would need to start something."

The RBC Innovation and Entrepreneurship Speaker Series is part of RBC’s $3 million commitment to the Boundless campaign intended to enhance the University’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. Previous events have included Geoffrey Hinton, as part of Entrepreneurship@UofT Week in March 2017, and Brad Katsuyama, CEO of IEX Group and John Stackhouse, Senior Vice-President – Office of the CEO, RBC in November 2016.

Just Vertical co-founders and current UTM Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) students Kevin Jakiela and Conner Tidd took home the top prize for their vertical sustainable growing system. They were also recently awarded 50th Legacy Funding from the University of Toronto Mississauga to support the implementation of their farm towers across campus.

The second spot went to FetchIT (Matthew Karabela, Mike Barcz and Samir Begic), an app that aims to solve delivery and moving dilemmas by connecting you with a pickup, van or truck owner. Third-place winners NISE Tech (Rayner Mendes and Grant Hu) pitched a cooking device that can be controlled through your phone.

The panel of judges included Ontario Capital Growth Corporation's Brenda Hogan, 500 Startups' Sanjay Singhal, UTM's Heather Hines, the City of Mississauga's David Soo, and Andela's Carnevale.

Group of participants at the Blind Duck Pub on May 25

"There's a real buzz around Mississauga with talk about innovation," said Shawn Slack, director of information technology and chief information officer for the City of Mississauga. "ICUBE has captured the essence of that." Also in attendance was Professor Bryan Stewart, vice-principal of research at UTM, who spoke about the synergy happening across the science and technology disciplines. "With our science programs, we’re trying to educate the next generation of students who will want to make a difference and improve the lives of someone somewhere around the world," he said.

Stewart then introduced UTM chemistry professor Scott Prosser, to talk about the role of basic science in discovery and its role in founding innovation.

"I think the two are very important bedfellows," he said, adding: "I think the stuff that you guys are inventing in ICUBE - that culture of entrepreneurism - is something that I was not acquainted with when I was a graduate student. Through my interactions with biotech students there’s a new sort of spirit of entrepreneurism.”

Prosser was recently awarded a major grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to continue his research on the structure and function of membrane receptors.

“Many of the professional programs at IMI give you the tools, if you have the entrepreneurial spirit to apply it," he said. "That's changing the way students think about their science and I think it’s fantastic.”

Wendi Zhou, a fourth-year PhD student in electrical and computer engineering was also invited onto the stage to present her three-minute thesis entitled, “Nanobiosensors: A Baby Monitor for Stem Cells.” She had tied for second place at the U of T Three Minute Thesis Competition Finals that took place last month.

“I’d like to go into industry and start developing devices," she told Dumcum. "I’ve been developing the research behind the basic science but I’d like to go into actually commercializing and be able to send devices up through the market.”

Also presenting was Diana Kraskouskaya, research associate for the Gunning Group and CEO of Dalriada Therapeutics Inc., a Mississauga-based startup that focuses on the development of new molecules for a range of therapeutic and diagnostic applications.

“We’re working primarily in three fields in the lab: the development of new therapeutics for aggressive types of cancer, the diagnostics of Alzheimer’s and the diagnostics of bacterial infections," said Kraskouskaya. "We achieve all of that using small molecule synthetic chemistry.”

To date, and with the support of several organizations including ICUBE, Dalriada Therapeutics Inc. has raised over $200,000.

"Our goal, by the end of this year, is to raise our series A round of 1.5 to 2 million dollars.”