U of T Mississauga’s ICUBE, Positive Space and U of T Entrepreneurship are teaming up to celebrate Pride with the university’s first competition dedicated to LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.
Students across all three campuses can compete for $4,000 in cash prizes to help accelerate their startup at PRIDE PITCH, which is takes place remotely on June 17.
This is the first time UTM’s incubator has held a pitch competition dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, according to Ignacio Mongrell, assistant director at ICUBE and co-chair of Positive Space at UTM. The competition is open to students across the three campuses.
The pitch competition is not only a way to celebrate Pride, it is also a means to both highlight and assist LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, who often face additional challenges.
“A lot of time founders have different fears and face different discrimination,” Mongrell says.
He explains he has heard horror stories of when a client or investor finds out an entrepreneur is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and, uncomfortable about working with them, pulls their funding or backs out on a deal.
There are, however, a lot of vendors that want to hire services from more diverse companies, Mongrell continues, and there is a lot of support within the LGBTQ+ community.
The upcoming competition will see five finalist teams with at least one member who identifies as LGBTQ+ facing off live over Zoom in a Dragon’s Den-style competition. They will pitch their startup to a panel of experts that includes U of T alumni, faculty members and a VP from Scotiabank. Competitors have five minutes to sell their idea. Two winners will be announced, each receiving a cash prize to help develop their business.
Applications for the competition are open until June 8 and those from any discipline can enter. There is already representation from various sectors, including health care, low tech and consumer-related applications, Mongrell says.
Noting entrepreneurship is a viable career option, he adds he hopes this inaugural PRIDE PITCH will be the start of an annual event.
“Entrepreneurship is for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are,” he says. “There are a ton of resources at U of T and a lot of people to help you through your journey.”
ICUBE provides support and resources to help students, faculty and alumni develop their business, offering advice, mentorship, coaching, access to legal resources and grant opportunities.
Mongrell says entrepreneurship “is important for the economy and it drives innovation. It’s a way toward self-employment.”