University of New Brunswick teams made another splash at this year’s NBIF Breakthru competition. Four of the five finalists to pitch their ideas in front of a sold-out crowd of 550 industry professionals were UNB students and recent grads.
“It is clear that we have amazing and very motivated students, and the dedication of faculty & staff at UNB is simply incredible,” said Dr. Dhirendra Shukla, professor and chair of the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship at UNB. “The community and mentors have also played a huge role in making all this happen.”
Castaway Golf takes top prize
Castaway Golf scored a hole in one, taking home the top prize of $287,250 in cash investments and professional services for its automated system that retrieves, sorts and sells golf balls lost in course hazards.
As co-founder Matt Vance recently told CBC’s Catherine Harrop, the idea behind Castaway stemmed from his love of collecting lost golf balls. Matt and his father Kevin Vance of Truro invented a mechanical device that collects the balls lost in golf course ponds. The device can haul in up to 70 golf balls in one minute.
The pair teamed up with Josh Ogden (co-founder and CEO) who has been instrumental in raising capital and support for their venture. The team has received support from the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre’s Technology Commercialization Program at UNB, as well as the National Research Council, Conservation Council of New Brunswick and Ignite Fredericton.
SimpTek wins chance to pitch to CBC Dragon’s Den
SimpTek, a UNB student group working with home automation systems that save energy, took second place at Breakthru, earning $220,000 in cash and professional services. The team also won the CBC Viewer’s Choice Award, earning them a ticket to pitch their idea on CBC’s Dragon’s Den.
SimpTek was cofounded by Keelen Gagnon, Lionel Fernandes and Asif Hasan, all students in UNB’s electrical and computer engineering program and diploma students in the J. Herbert Smith Centre’s Technology Management and Entrepreneurship Program. SimpTek has also been supported by the faculty of business’ Activator program (managed by UNB’s International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre), UNB’s Pond-Deshpande Centre, as well as Planet Hatch/Launch36.
Keith Brunt, associate professor at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick located on UNB’s Saint John campus, took third prize for Biomatrix, a company developing a magnetic compound for removing heavy metals from waste water.
The University of New Brunswick has become known for its success in entrepreneurship and innovation, boasting 23 startups in the last two years. UNB was named Post-Secondary Institution of the Year by Startup Canada in June 2014.
Contributions by Maggie MacDonald