Text in blue box: "Finalists announced" on a black background

Finalists announced: Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition

To be a successful entrepreneur, it is essential that you find an important problem to solve, and thoroughly understand its scope, scale, and history. The larger the problem, the larger your profit could be. That’s why Velocity and the Problem Lab have teamed up again to host the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition, where teams of students were tasked with the challenge of identifying important industry problems and conducting research, before pitching their findings for the chance to win a share of up to $30,000 in funding.

This term’s competition has student teams competing in three different categories: Open Problems, Billion Dollar Problems, and Discovery Tools. Each future term will feature a category in partnership with different faculties, this term’s Discovery Tools category is in partnership with the Faculty of Science and focuses on science-based problems.

Eight teams were selected as finalists from sixty-six applicants, and they will each make a five-minute pitch on their research to a panel of judges on Thursday, November 1, competing for $5,000 of funding and 1st place in their respective categories. Teams will also have the opportunity to double their funding following the event, as they work with the Problem Lab to develop a solution to the problem identified. This term, the finalists have identified problems ranging from pressure injuries to fake news on social media. Below are the finalists and the problems they’ve identified:

Discovery Tools

Uniw: The inefficiency of space propulsion systems.
Exponential DT: The need for computational simulation in scientific research is growing, but cannot overcome the inherent limitations of computational simulation using current methods.
Introspection: Improving reproducibility in computational biology must be a priority to enhance the credibility of scientific findings and accelerate the translation from discovery to application.

Open Problems

Waitime: Wait times for treatment by specialist physicians have been rising for more than 20 years in Canada, significantly impacting citizens, the economy, and the healthcare system as a whole.
Atlas Medical: Pressure injuries are highly preventable and damaging ailments, yet current solutions are ineffective at preventing them while placing stress on nurses and caregivers.
Intelliculture: Small farms are not adopting the latest advances in smart agriculture.

Billion Dollar Problems

Sphinx: Artificial Intelligence has failed in the verification of misinformation on social media networks.
Gamechangers: Digital ads are not effective or attractive to consumers.

At the past Spring 2018 competition,1st place and $5,000 in funding was awarded to team Membio, addressing how life-saving medicines for detrimental diseases cannot be commercialized due to their complexity and problems with manufacturing and scientific innovation. The 2nd place, $2,500 award was given to PriveHealth, who tackled the healthcare industry problem of cyber attacks on big data due to the spread of the internet, mobile devices and the use of outdated software. The 3rd place People’s Choice Award was selected by the audience and was awarded to FoodLinks which pitched the problem of traceability in food supply chains, outlining how produce cannot be traced along every step from farm to market resulting in a huge loss of profit for retailers and consumers when there is product recalls.

The panel of judges this term will be drawing on their developed industry knowledge and their own entrepreneurial experience:

Shirley Tang

Professor Xiaowu (Shirley) Tang joined the Department of Chemistry and Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) at the University of Waterloo in 2006. Currently, she is the Associate Dean of Science, Research, and a board member of the WIN. During 2014-2017, she served as the Director of Nanotechnology Engineering (NE) program, Canada’s only undergraduate NE program. Prior to joining UW, she received her Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and pursued postdoctoral work at Stanford University. She also had 3 years of industrial experience in Silicon Valley, California, and is a co-founder of LeNano Diagnostics, Inc, a company incorporated in 2016.

Ruma Sondhi

Ruma Sondhi is currently Senior Director of Product Management at MetricWire Inc. and has over 17 years of experience in a variety of product and marketing management positions in technology and telecommunications.  She spent the early part of her career at Bell and AT&T working in diverse roles from networking planning to corporate strategy.  Ruma eventually moved to a senior product management role at Redknee, a global provider of OSS/BSS software products and services to the telecommunications industry, and a firm founded by former University of Waterloo graduates.

Ruma recently joined MetricWire Inc., a startup from the Velocity Garage.  She currently manages the product roadmap for MetricWire’s web and mobile-based research data collection platform, and is responsible for planning and prioritizing product deliverables, driving product innovation, and validating market positioning across various customer industries.

Eric Blondeel

Eric Blondeel co-founded his startup ExVivo Labs devoted to improving allergy testing halfway through receiving his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo while researching anti-cancer drugs. In the past 2 years, they have graduated from YCombinator and Velocity to form an exciting diagnostic company based in Uptown Waterloo.

The Fall 2018 Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition will be held from 7:00pm – 10:00pm on Thursday, November 1 in Room 0050 in (STC) Science Teaching Complex, on the University of Waterloo campus. Attendees from the university and the broader community are all welcome to watch the pitches. Please register to attend.

The Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition is made possible by $300,000 in funding from Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, principals of Quantum Valley Investments® and founders of Blackberry.