Starting a business can be challenging, but a little support can go a long way.
When you are passionate about a field such as engineering, it is natural to have exceptional ideas to solve an issue, local or worldwide. But how do you go from an idea or a project to a scalable business model?
MakerLaunch is a 9-month, milestone-based accelerator program that provides support to engineering students or recent alumni in their entrepreneurial goals. This initiative by the Faculty of Engineering aims to help participants launch new start-ups and fast-track the commercialization of their technologies. It opens opportunities for mentorship, collaboration, and partnerships.
The 2021 cohort consisted of 3 groups: Advanced Environmental Molecular Analytics Ltd., JAMZ Delivery Inc., and VRapeutic.
In honour of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we wanted to hear from the founders on what the MakerLaunch program has done for them.
Advanced Environmental Molecular Analytics Ltd. (AEMA)
Dr. Robert Delatolla, Patrick D’Aoust and Elisabeth Mercier are the founders of AEMA. AEMA creates a turnkey solution for wastewater monitoring. Being the first Canadian company to measure SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater and the first in North America to monitor it daily, they have turned their state-of-the-art procedure into a comprehensive method licensed to laboratories of scale entering the wastewater monitoring field.
This scientific team had most of their tools in their repertoire to design and optimize their product. However, they were still at a loss about how they could take a good idea outside of the laboratory and commercialize it for a bigger market. That’s where the MakerLaunch program steps in.
The MakerLaunch program allowed the AEMA team to tap into their entrepreneurship ecosystem. For Elisabeth Mercier, entrepreneurship “represents the opportunity to have a real impact in [her] community.” The process of entrepreneurship has allowed AEMA to turn their idea, vision and overall passion into something concrete. “There is nothing more exciting and rewarding than that,” added Mercier.
AEMA aims to build more tools to monitor multiple pathogens and health threats in wastewater to provide public health units with the critical data they need to keep our community safe. “The last year and a half showed the world the need for pandemic preparedness,” said Mercier. “A strong public health response is based on monitoring which informs public health measures implementation and immunization.”
JAMZ Delivery Inc.
JAMZ, founded by Logan Rodie, Zainab Badawi, Felipe Garcia-Salas Vidal, Piers Hancock, and Mohammad Abu-Shaaban, provides drone delivery solutions to courier services across Canada. This service is an accessible method for couriers to expand into the rural market while also being time- and resource-efficient. The MakerLaunch program has allowed this team’s dream to provide an automated aerial solution to guarantee the fastest travel method with a fixed cost model.
This incredible idea stemmed from their win in the Simon-Nehme Covid-19 design challenge. From that point on, JAMZ ventured into entrepreneurship to bring their ideas to life. For founder Mohammad Abu-Shaaban, entrepreneurship “is what brings ideas to life. It drives innovation and feeds the drive to invent. The world is full of problems and is in need of creative solutions, solutions that are motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit.”
The MakerLaunch program has given this team support, guidance and resources they need to achieve their dreams, but they don’t want to stop there. They want to make this drone solution mainstream. They explained that UAV technology had evolved immensely in the past five years, and it’s vital that Canada gets on board with the valuable tech.
VRapeutic is a company that develops software for therapeutic and rehabilitation purposes with a focus on virtual reality for learning and neurodevelopmental disorders. Ahmad Al-Kabbany and Yahya Alaa, founding members of VRapeutic, want rehabilitation centres and hospitals to deliver supervised VR sessions, in-person or remotely.
Signing unto MakerLaunch, the team wanted to support their idea with various resources offered through the program. MakerLaunch gave their team exposure to the Canadian entrepreneurship ecosystem, networking with potential investors and stakeholders, access to resources and different types of support such as legal support for their problem-solving tool.
VRapeutic sets its sights on addressing a pressing market need while leaving a significant social impact on Canadian society through entrepreneurship, developing new solutions that are more effective and efficient than currently existing ones. In addition, through their product, they would promote social inclusion by empowering people with learning and developmental challenges to attain their full potential.
In later years, VRapeutic plans on realizing the full potential of virtual reality in digital therapy by developing the most extensive science-backed VR curricula for essential life skills.
Will you be the next engineering student to venture into entrepreneurship?
These incredible students make it clear that the MakerLaunch program has made an enormous difference in allowing engineering students the opportunity to pursue their dreams. MakerLaunch offers coaches and mentors experienced technology entrepreneurs, co-working space in the new STEM Complex, design and prototyping support—services and facilities, business support, connections with investors and industry partners and access to talent.