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Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the McGill Community
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The Business Model Canvas: A Tool for Starting and Reshaping your Startup (Startup Bootcamp recap)

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 19:44

Editor’s Note: On Saturday January 13th, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship held its 2018 edition of the Startup Bootcamp – an annual, full-day event where potential entrepreneurs come in to get prepped for the McGill Dobson Cup, as well as what comes after. 

After a round of inspiring speeches from our Associate Director Renjie Butalid, as well as angel investor Tim Tokarsky, we offered several different options depending on the needs of our attendees: a starting block for those without an idea or team, and pitch practice with judges for those who are already on their way. The starting block was focused on developing the idea and building a great team, as well as best practices when it comes to pitching. On the other hand, pitch practice was useful to get real feedback from experienced business mentors. After lunch, we all gathered for some important lessons and final pitches.

But arguably the most powerful lesson for most people thinking about business, was the presentation on the Business Model Canvas, delivered by Renjie Butalid. Our writer Hasan Bilgen found a way to scale the lessons learnt, and share it with ALL of our readers – this article.

Before we jump into it though, here are the slides from the bootcamp:

The Business Model Canvas can help you think about all the different types of hypotheses for your business. They’re hypotheses because you don’t know if they’re true or not just yet. This uncertainty comes from having to actually go out there and look to see if you are actually addressing the concerns you think your business is addressing. You can’t take your business’s structure for granted and you can’t assume everyone on you team is really on the same page.

So who are your customers? What are you offering? Is your team all talking about the same customers? Following this model allows your team to have a conversation about your business and customers and to more clearly define your company’s internal and external organization.

If your team can go through the Business Model Canvas and answer all the questions then you will have a clear pathway to creating and writing your business plan.

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value”

What is the business model canvas?

Think of this model as wording your business in a simple way: 3 or 4 words, so you can know how your business will be functioning: the customers, the financials, the labour. This is the dissection of your whole idea for everything. Remember, the McGill Dobson Cup Business Plan is short (5-pages), you should be struggling to condense all of the background, vision, prospects, and success of your company.

Going through this model is a way to think and express the most important things precisely and effectively–it is a visual snapshot of your entire company. It can also be value changing, it can really change how you think you know the operations of all that you are actually doing. It will help you express your ideas by thinking of your business differently and possibly connecting different aspects of your team that haven’t been before. Your company is creating value, it is solving a problem being wanted by customers, and it is your job to also capture this value.

Here’s an example, using LinkedIn:

The 9 Building Blocks:


This is your elevator summary of your startup – three or four sentences which can sum up your company’s vision. What are you offering customers? What is it that is getting done for them? Why should they care? You have to create a need for your company to exist and understanding why and how you are needed is the key. If the customers you are trying to reach can’t see why they should need you, then you need to change how you target them till they think that they couldn’t possibly live without you.


Which customers and users are you serving? Which jobs do they really want done? If you say your target group is ‘everybody’ you need to narrow that down…a lot. You cannot create a startup trying to target everyone. If you do that, then you will target no one. How do you stand out? When Zuckerberg started Facebook his target community was just Harvard . It was only after he captured that market he expanded to other Ivy League Universities, then Universities in general, and only then, the world.  

Furthermore, are you sure you are targeting the right people. 18-30? 18-22? Being 27 is very different than being 20. You must be nuanced in how you break down the assumptions of your customer segment. Uber used the rule of 3’s. Identify (1) where, (2) who, (3) how. They started with a pilot in (1) San Francisco with a  target market of (2) individuals in the tech industry earning over a 100k a year (3) using their mobile beta app, and it worked! After their trial in S.F. they went to New York City with same variables, and so on. Only now do we all know Uber. Focus on getting to know a niche market’s customers – and the only way you can do that is by talking to them!


How does each customer segment want to be reached? Through which interaction points? For example, professionals may want to be contacted through LinkedIn while 16 year olds may be best reached through social media like SnapChat or Instagram. You don’t need to (and you shouldn’t) be on every single platform, just the ones that actively promote your company to your target audience.


What relationships do you establish with each segment? Personal? Automated? Acquisitive? Retentive? You want customer loyalty. There is no point, or sustainability, in signing up many one-time customers. It’s cheaper to have a customer keep on coming back to make purchases than to get a 100 new, one-time customers every week. How will you establish loyalty for customers? (Air Miles card, Sephora card, etc.,) What program can you create to retain loyalty?


What are customers really willing to pay for? How? Are you generating transactional or recurring revenues? There are many different ways to go about it. One-time transactions are the easiest but perhaps your company needs a subscription service, or maybe customers can buy in blocks, or maybe you offer it for free to a certain amount and then charge premium, or maybe you start premium right off the bat. You should find the most efficient and customer preferred method of payment for your company.


Which resources underpin your business mode? Which assets are essential? How do you deliver? If you ‘need’ an office, you don’t need a real office, a living room will do. Need wi-fi? Maybe go to a coffee shop. It isn’t important to have everything yet, but you NEED to articulate what resources you do and will need, including human knowledge or labour! If your team doesn’t have everyone (or thing) it needs to have, prioritize finding a way to be complete.


What activities do you need to perform well in your business model? What is crucial? If you need 100 sign-ups, then you need sales people. If you are an app focused on students then you might need to research where students gather. Find out what your team needs to know to be delivering  your value proposition.


Which partners and suppliers leverage your model? Who do you need to rely on? Through whom can you earn credibility? You’re a seemingly unproven team but you can use previous references and experiences to establish relationships and partnerships right off the bat which could lead to users. If you want people to trust you, show them that they can through other people who have trusted you, or highlight how you are right for the job.


This all costs money; you want these resources to deliver, you want to pay people to do these activities., What is the resulting cost structure? Which key elements drive your cost? By going through the 9 blocks your company will be able to articulate what it needs to construct and operate under an appropriate sustainable business model.


If you don’t have these basic answers it’s okay because your startup is a work in progress, but to start becoming successful you need to be able to breakdown and answer these questions. You can also use something like this to deconstruct similar companies or competition to compare and set up.

Back to the concept of hypotheses, you don’t know if these are true and the best way to test them is with going to customers. If your model works then keep going and add improvements. Otherwise, pivot, make small changes where you saw deficits, and remember to always be learning. This model is just one way that you can Build, Measure, and Learn how your startup is doing and it’s the role of a successful startup to be constantly, quickly, and effectively be monitoring their performance this way.

What’s Next?
  • January 17, 2018: Application Deadline @ 11:59PM – McGill Dobson Cup 2018
  • January 24, 2018: Startup Legals, Protecting Your IP & How to Incorporate your Startup
  • January 31, 2018: How to Pitch Your Startup Workshop
  • February 7, 2018: Startup Financials Workshop
  • February 14, 2018: Market Research Workshop
  • February 20-23, 2018: Semi-Finals – McGill Dobson Cup 2018 and much more!

Learn more about our events at

The post The Business Model Canvas: A Tool for Starting and Reshaping your Startup (Startup Bootcamp recap) appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

Founder Spotlight: Yves Guillaume A. Messy from QGS Technologies Ltd.

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 18:45

Editor’s Note: This week, our founder spotlight is about Yves Guillaume A. Messy: Political Science student, self-taught programming genius, and founder of the insurance startup QGS Technologies. Buckle up for a long conversation with Yves Guillaume about his background, his company, entrepreneurship, and some interesting reads and personalities to look up to.

Dobson Chronicles (D.C.): Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is?

Yves Guillaume A. Messy, founder of QGS Technologies

Yves Guillaume A. Messy (Y.M.): My name is Yves Guillaume Messy. I was born in Sub-Saharan Africa, and moved to Canada as a political refugee. I went to high school here, in Ottawa and in the Greater Toronto Area, before studying Political Science at the University of Toronto. I originally intended to study engineering prior to moving to Canada, which may explain how technical or mathematical my view of political science and international relations eventually unfolded. The rise of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence provided me with a unique opportunity to deploy machine learning and quantum computing -driven models of how international politics work and apply this view to financial markets.  So in this way, I’m an accidental scientist, and still a definite foreign policy nerd.


D.C.: And what is it that drove you towards Political Science?

Y.M.: I had an early interest in global affairs, to the point where I still have this vivid memory of me at 10 years old watching the news, looking at Koffi Annan at the UN with intense interest. Since then I studied, volunteered, got involved in, or otherwise explored various ways to personally make an impact on some of the pressing global issues we face today, from access to finance among what Paul Collier refers to as “the bottom billion”, to human security issues, to issues of war and peace. Having this engineering disposition and this focus on the study of war and peace and global affairs, it seemed like a natural progression that I would take political science models that we traditionally were taught, and pretty much insert them into Big Data and Artificial Intelligence-related analytics, which is what brings me here today!


D.C.: You say you have an engineering disposition, but how did you concretely come to master the actual skills behind programming and that exposure to innovative technologies that you leverage in your startup?

Y.M.: Of course you can take coding classes in university, but I was lucky enough to to be really into video games when I was 10 or 11, so I have a little bit of a history playing with MS-DOS and Windows 95 from the command line, sometimes take video games apart or get free ones. And even though I took 6 or 7 years off of that to study political science intensely, with logic and math at the core of my approach, I had an easier time than most in relearning the main languages a few years later. It was easier for me to learn the basics of C++, Python, and Java, computational logic and basic data structures and algorithms, thanks to my earlier educational background. At the end of the day, to me, social sciences and computer science are both about logic and probability theory. That link what allows me to navigate both spaces from an interdisciplinary perspective.


D.C.: You learned programming on your own, so would ”student during the day – programmer at night” describe accurately your experience?

Y.M.: Exactly. Being a student at the University of Toronto was an immense privilege since the school has the third largest library system in the world. I had access to the best academic and hands-on resources available on C++, Java and Python, and then looked around for additional textbooks on data structures online. The issue for me was to find out what was the best language available out there to translate political systemic behavior into logic language. And I guess that quest led me from political science to logic, to stats, to mathematical logic, all the way to AI research and programming. Again, there are resources online available for simple translations, textbooks to help you implement programs, but at the core of it, it’s all logic and statistics.


D.C.: And so those long nights of studying led to the birth of QGS Technologies, the startup you founded. Can you tell us about what it is and what it does?

Y.M.: Yes, by the time we’re done with QGS Technologies, we want the political environment of an investment destination to be no more important than its temperature, when making the decision whether or not to invest. We recognize that political uncertainty overall will increase to highest levels seen pre-World War II, so our mission to reduce, or even eliminate political uncertainty’s ability to expensively prevent investment decisions from being made. QGS Technologies and our software, was a hobby research project initially, but two major political surprises Donald Trump’s election and the Brexit vote, combined with the hysteria that followed from both, motivated us to put a working solution out there as soon as possible. The timing worked out.


 If you enjoyed reading about this story, you might also like: Recap: The Future of Technology – 3D Audio, AI, and Blockchain, or even AI and FinTech: Takeaways from the Canada Forum

D.C.: About your company now, what is the key value that you are trying to create for investors?

Y.M.: Prior to starting QGS Technologies, my core business experience lied in private equity and venture capital; as an advisor, analyst, and limited partner, looking at risky emerging and frontier market investment destinations like Niger, Senegal, and Brazil as investment destinations. These often present a dilemma for institutional investors, not much data to gauge the risk and the evidence on the ground is often anecdotal at best, and often comes with a lot of moral hazard and reliability issues. To me, having that uncertainty reduced to a number at all times, to contribute to market participants’ risk management and investment decision-making models is key. This is effectively what we do for investors, we make this previously unavailable talk to our clients in real-time, in a way they and their models can understand, this saves them time and money, it augments their decision-making abilities.


D.C.: So you provide them with this number, and then based on their appetite for risk, investors will adjust their decisions accordingly.

YM: Exactly. We are working to provide one of the fastest real-time scores of any financial investment’s political risk outlook. For example, the typical  private equity deal takes 6 months of due diligence, after which, investors decide whether or not to invest in a deal meeting. They then get stuck in politically risky investment destinations for five to seven years based on some of the most casually political considerations seen in finance today. We want to give investors that political agility, model it, and insert it into their workflow and board meetings, thanks to artificial intelligence’s recent progresses. That is fairly new stuff. Now, investors will be able to see the evolutions of the political situation in real-time and have a ‘liquid’ outlook of their investments’ political context. To us, this is key to increasing ease of access to finance worldwide.


D.C.: And so without trying to steal your secret ingredients, what are some of the technologies you leverage to achieve those goals?

Y.M.: We leverage open data and purchase others. We also use natural language processing, sound, video, and some other techniques such as traditional machine learning, some unconventional artificial intelligence techniques, and some really interesting big data visualization techniques that enable us to make sense of the huge amounts of data at once, because it can be overwhelming.


D.C.: During your last presentation at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, you mentioned that you are also using virtual reality to streamline the due diligence process. Are you using proprietary equipment?

Y.M.: We prefer to be hardware agnostic, to focus on building a virtual reality platform for government relations and asset management exchanges, powered by blockchain technology. Blockchain technology will be key to this platform, to allow for cheaper verifiability (and therefore trust) between investment decision makers and the stakeholders they deal with for advice as they consider international investment. So for example, if you’re in New York, and you want to invest in a Brazilian opportunity, but you don’t have time to tour to the facilities and check on recent changes in the local political and regulatory environment, we hope to make it possible for you in days, not half-years. We have, however, looked seriously at custom hardware in Shenzen, China, specifically, but this is very much exploratory at the moment.


D.C.: How did you jump from having the concept and doing your research as a hobby to realizing your ideas into a business?

Y.M.: It was a bit of an accident, to be honest. I was at a conference in London around this date last year, where I heard a prominent banker speak about the implications of the Trump election on world markets, and how bankers couldn’t have seen it coming. He was explaining how events such as Brexit or the Trump election are not foreseeable, and I was sitting there in a room full of some of the smartest people in the world of finance, realizing that there were a few simple data points that could really help them see the big picture better. As a political commentator on these issues, I’ve had a track record of forecasting political surprises rather consistently, since the rise of emerging markets back in 2010. It occurred to me that, if I can manage to formally model some of my intuition forecasting dozens of earlier similar political surprises, these financial market participants’s work would become a whole lot easier, with respect to political risk. From then on, I started working with investment managers directly, to get a clearer picture of what’s being done poorly today. Engaging directly and validating some of my assumptions also showed me how and why some of the lesser quality political forecasts get made today. We are leveraging these lessons today, as part of our product design process.

D.C.: So it’s been about a year since that breakthrough moment. Where is QGS now? Are you already in operation?

Y.M.: We pitched the idea at a competition called Startup Bootcamp Insurtech in London, which was one of the first insurance technology competitions worldwide. At the time, we went from concept to proof of concept, which is what got us into the competition, and on to the final round but didn’t end up making the final cut because we lacked the capacity to service more than a few people at a time. So I went back to Canada to focus on scalability, quality assurance, and product validation. Based on these efforts, we were able to fine-tune our proposition, making it available became able to prototype users via APIs, robot-advisors (conversational computing interfaces) and some basics of our virtual reality solution. We are about to get into the go-to-market phase to make an alpha version of our software available to a wider audience.


D.C.: This is very exciting! So what is your vision for QGS in the future?

Y.M.: The way I see QGS going, I would like to see most international financial centers, from Tokyo to London to Paris or New York using Geoff, our AI, comfortably, as a risk-management colleague in a way. We want to make sure that we become a tool of reference when it comes to political risk in international investment management going forward. Hopefully, by next year, most financial centers will have some kind of QGS software available.

In terms of our business model, right now our beachhead strategy is to provide data on a Software as a Service basis. From there, we plan to add robo-advisors and virtual reality goodies to an eventual beta launch.


D.C.: Who are you currently working with on QGS Technologies?

Y.M.: QGS Technologies is a distributed team, which means that we are not bound by geography, but we have a core team of eight and a peripheral team made of crowdsourced efforts. Some of the core team members are people I was already with during the London startup competition, and some aren’t. Typically, I’ve learned that there are different teams to meet different needs at different stages of startup growth. We’ve been interviewing rigorously people from around the world, and our team now counts people from France, Brazil, the UK, Greece, Canada, and China. What matters is their ability to be comfortable in a virtual space and distributed teams, and their willingness to tackle complex problems at the intersection of political science and programming.


D.C.: Thank you for answering questions about your company. The McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship seeks to inspire entrepreneurs in the McGill community, so now has come the time for a little inspiration! I’ll start with a basic question: what is your definition of an entrepreneur?

Y.M.: To me, an entrepreneur is a problem solver who’s comfortable looking outside of the box, possibly with a sense of urgency. Entrepreneurship seemed a natural thing to me because I come from a family with a long tradition and experience in entrepreneurship, going back to 1935. I’m still learning to think in other ways!


D.C.: Would you define yourself as a risk-taker?

Y.M: Yes, in a way. One thing I’ve seen is that the more success I meet going forward, the better I get at taking calculated risks. Most people see a lot of risk in some things, but they simultaneously fail to see the risk in others “safe” options. The world of business, society overall actually, is being disrupted left and right, every day, in ways no one is able to foresee. You could say that given the future of work brought about by AI and other exponential technologies, doing nothing, not daring a little, is the riskiest move of all.


D.C.: What would be your biggest advice for our community?

Y.M.: The biggest advice I can give is to really get out of your bubble, of your comfort zone. We’ve never lived in such a time when established models of functioning are changing so fast and fundamentally. You need to always keep an eye on adjacent innovation hubs. Hang out in other faculties’ buildings, talk to people. Going forward, people who will thrive the most are those who are able to be post-disciplinary. One thing I’ve seen is that the ability to see across disciplinary boundaries enables you to see change sooner than colleagues who are stuck in silos.


D.C.: Can you tell us about the people that you admire and inspire you?

Y.M.: Oh dear, that’s a tricky one! First off, obviously Muhammad Yunus, who is a great inspiration. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him on a few occasions at the University of Toronto during my school time. As someone with a passion for access to finance, human security and international development questions, I was very curious the first I came across Banker to the Poor, one of his books about social entrepreneurship. The fact that he was able to use business methods to bring human security, dignity, and innovation at the grassroots SME level to most of the developing countries today is amazing.

Another one would be Ray Dalio, head of Bridgewater Associates, a US hedge fund. He has a very systematic, logical, and empirical way of looking at real world situations, in his case in Finance. But more than that, he is disciplined and rigorously focused on real-time learning from both mistake and successes while in business. That principled approach to change is  inspiring.

And finally, Christine Lagarde. She is legendary, both as a policy-maker and as a trustee of financial stability, international cross-cultural consensus, and empathetic leadership whilst at the helm of International Monetary Fund. She did this right through, and past, more than a decade-long financial recession.  She’s an inspiration on all accounts.


D.C.: Finally, do you have some great reads or resources that you would like to share with us?

Y.M.: I would suggest a book called the Mathematical Corporation by Angela Zutavern and Josh Sullivan, and The Seventh Sense, by Joshua Cooper Ramo. These books will tell you everything you need to know to start thinking about disruption today.


D.C.: What are preferred sources for keeping up with international news and political issues?

Y.M.: I really focus on the Financial Times and the Washington Post, and I try to keep up with anything by the Eurasia Group, which I find very useful.


D.C.: Thank you for your time, I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview. Best of luck to you with QGS Technologies and we hope to see you again soon at McGill!


 If you enjoyed reading about this story, you might also like:

Recap: The Future of Technology – 3D Audio, AI, and Blockchain

 AI and FinTech: Takeaways from the Canada Forum

 Startupfest 2017 Recap – The Future of Everything

The post Founder Spotlight: Yves Guillaume A. Messy from QGS Technologies Ltd. appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

2 resources and 11 Tips on Winning the McGill Dobson Cup

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 23:55

Note that the deadline to apply for the McGill Dobson Cup is 11:59PM EST Wednesday, January 17, 2018 – apply here!

As the 2018 McGill Dobson Cup approaches, we thought we’d share some tips from the January 10th event we held on “How to Win The McGill Dobson Cup”, and some extra resources. Here they are!

Resource 1: Pitch advice from Google Developers’ Youtube Channel

Resource 2: Guy Kawasaki’s presentation template for your 5-minute pitch

11 tips on Winning The McGill Dobson Cup

1. Assemble an All-Star team

Product is important, but ultimately you need to have the people who have the specialized skills necessary to build that product.

2. Know what you’re being judged on

Judges will look at the feasibility, growth potential and innovation, as presented by the teams. Specifically for the Social Enterprise Track, social impact will be assessed.

3. Make progress between the Semi-Finals and the Finals

If you can show that you’re actively working on your business and that you’ve taken feedback and used it to learn, you’re that much better off when you’re presenting to the judges in the Finals.

4. Show that you are all in

When you’re speaking during the pitch or the Q&A, find a way to demonstrate that you are obsessed with your vision and that you are dedicated to seeing this through.

5. Tell a story

Judges will hear up to 10 pitches a day, so using emotional stories to differentiate your pitch will make their job easier and make your company more memorable.

6. Show your prototype

Bring samples, frameworks, products, or some kind of tangible Minimum Viable Product. You know how it’s said that a picture is worth 1000 words? Well a prototype is said to be worth 1000 meetings – bring one!

7. Talk about early traction

Even a few thousand dollars of revenue or letters of intent are useful. Judges are constantly judging whether or not you’re solving a problem. And the best way to do that, is by showing that people want and are using, what you’re building.

8. Make the most of it by keeping an open mind

Talk to the other teams and ask the judges questions! This competition is meant to embody experiential learning and provides students with invaluable feedback, mentorship and networking opportunities.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Recall that you have 20 minutes in total: 5 to pitch, and 15 for Q&A. The Q&A is TWO-SIDED! You can ask for specific advice, or even introductions. And bring a small notepad to take notes – it’s practically useful and signals your dedication.

10. Use the competition as a FIRST STEP

Don’t get too attached to winning – ultimately, entrepreneurship is a marathon not a sprint. The most valuable things in the competition are the lessons learnt, the feedback you get, the people you meet, and the confidence you build. Focus on those!

11. Don’t be on time, be early

If you’re even a few minutes late, we will have whichever team is ready take your place. Our competition is scheduled in multiple locations at precise times – we don’t have the capacity to accommodate everyone’s schedule.

Deadline to apply for the McGill Dobson Cup: 11:59PM EST Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The post 2 resources and 11 Tips on Winning the McGill Dobson Cup appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

Recap: McGill Lean Startup Demo Day

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 08:16

Editor’s Note: The McGill Lean Startup Program is a 10-week hands-on program that immerses early-stage McGill startup teams by having them test their business ideas and hypotheses outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, we deliberately trade off lecture time for students/teaching team interaction.

Since the end of September, 8 early-stage McGill teams have been going through the build-measure-learn customer development process and have been working on their pitches in preparation for this event. On December 4th, we had them pitch in front of over 100 people including 3 judges to show the city what they’ve been up to. There was also a brief Q&A after each pitch.

Packed house tonight as the 8 #startups in this year’s @mcgillu #LeanStartup program pitched their early-stage companies for the first time in public.

Next stop #McGill #DobsonCup 2018 powered by @nationalbank Applications now open until Jan 17, 2018.

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) December 5, 2017

Meet the cohort!

1. Composite Marker

You may be familiar with this situation if you’re a dentist: A patient comes in, and you need to stain their white fillings but you actually end up staining more than that – the whole tooth! You’re not happy about it, and neither is the patient. This exact situation is costing dentists hours every week…hours that they could be spending on other clients or even at home with their families. But what if you could do just that? Composite Marker stains white fillings but not the surrounding tooth, allowing dentists to replace and repair fillings more efficiently and safely!

2. Cura Therapeutics

Steve Jobs, Alan Rickman, Patrick Swayze, Syd Barrett, Bill Hicks, and Joan Crawford. What did they all have in common? Pancreatic cancer. It is estimated that 1 man in 74 will develop pancreatic cancer in his lifetime and 1 in 27 will die from it. It is estimated that 1 woman in 72 will develop pancreatic cancer during her lifetime and 1 in 66 will die from it. We are proud to say that Cura Therapeutics is developing a cure for pancreatic cancer with their novel immunotherapy technology right here at McGill.

3. DomeAge

A geodesic dome is a hemispherical thin-shell structurebased on a geodesic polyhedron. The triangular elements of the dome are structurally rigid and distribute the structural stress throughout the structure, making geodesic domes able to withstand very heavy loads for their size. DomeAge provides a kit that allows people worldwide to construct a personalized geodesic dome, effortlessly. This has applications like use for camping, impromptu habitats for picnics, and best of all, they look cool! See the Biosphere in Montreal to see what a big one looks like.

4. EBHnow 

There’s a major problem that dentists have: understanding the implications and effects of different medications and conditions on dental care. They can sort through endless databases and studies to find what they need, but this slows down their work immensely. What if there were an AI-based system that could bring you the answers right to your finger tips? A sort of personalized dental care research assistant, that’s more reliable and more dentally-focused than something like WebMD. EBHnow  is the hub of evidence-based healthcare data. They provide updated solutions for dental inquiries.

5. Informed Experiments

There is a major bottleneck on the way we perform cancer research: the complexity of gene networks. Molecular genetics presents an increasingly complex picture of the genome and biological function. Evidence is mounting for distributed function, redundancy, and combinatorial coding in the regulation of genes. It’s extremely difficult for researchers to step over this boundary and carry on with their research. Informed Experiments’ AI algorithms are looking to distill the complexity of gene networks to accelerate cancer research.

6. Inti Aerospace 

Agriculture is probably not the first thing you think of when you think “high tech” and “innovation”, right? But the fact is, from the dawn of civilization, it was food production and transportation that has necessitated mankind to step up their tech game. From plows to seed selection, complex drip irrigation systems and mechanized farming, FOOD has driven lots of innovation. The next revolution? Vertically integrated solar drones that require minimal human fiddling. Inti Aerospace’s solar-powered platform helps farmers maximize crop yields by providing precise crop imagery at an unprecedented rate.

7. InVivo AI

The process for drug discovery and approval takes ages. It can take decades to know whether or not a medication will be feasible in terms of toxicity and chemical stability. And in the meantime, everybody including investors are left waiting with no informed idea of whether or not it could work – many investors are not scientists, after all. What if there were a sort of pre-approval process that could be done rapidly and accurately that would give you a high-level overview of the chances that a drug will be approved? InVivo AI is your clinical trial crystal ball, using the power of machine learning to predict failure through all phases of drug development.


Should doctors be required to take a calligraphy class? Jokes aside, miscommunication of what medications somebody is on is a serious issue. Especially if that person isn’t capable (for one reason or another) to communicate that to you. Unforeseen negative effects from drug interactions and allergies are just the tip of the iceberg of what this issue can lead to, whether it’s you or your loved ones. That’s where PHIRE comes in, helping you manage your medications for a safer, healthier family.

What’s next? The McGill Dobson Cup of course – applications are now open!

The post Recap: McGill Lean Startup Demo Day appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

McGill Lean Startup Program 2017 Final Pitches

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 17:28

The McGill Lean Startup Program is a 10-week hands-on program that immerses early-stage McGill startup teams by having them test their business ideas and hypotheses outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, we deliberately trade off lecture time for students/teaching team interaction.

Since the end of September, 8 early-stage McGill teams have been going through the build-measure-learn customer development process and have been working on their pitches in preparation for this event.

On December 4, come join the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and the McGill Lean Startup Program as these 8 early-stage startups pitch their companies for the first time in public. This event also celebrates the end of the McGill Lean Startup Program 2017.

Come hear our teams pitch their innovative and disruptive solutions to real-world problems. From medtech to agritech, there’s something for everyone!

Register to Attend

On December 4 at 6PM, come join the @DobsonCentre as we mark the end of #LeanStartup program! Come hear our @mcgillu teams pitch their innovative and disruptive solutions to real-world problems. From #MedTech to #AgTech, there’s something for everyone!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) November 29, 2017

1. Composite Marker – Composite Marker stains white fillings but not the surrounding tooth, allowing dentists to replace and repair fillings more efficiently and safely.

2. Cura Therapeutics – Cura Therapeutics is developing a cure for pancreatic cancer with their novel immunotherapy technology.

3. DomeAge – DomeAge provides a kit that allows people worldwide to construct a personalized geodesic dome, effortlessly.

4. EBHnow – EBHnow is the hub of evidence-based healthcare data. We provide updated solutions for dental inquiries.

5. Informed Experiments – With our AI algorithms, we distill the complexity of gene networks to accelerate cancer research.

6. Inti Aeropsace – Inti Aerospace’s solar-powered platform helps farmers maximise crop yields by providing precise crop imagery at an unprecedented rate.

7. InVivo AI – InVivo AI is your clinical trial crystal ball, using the power of machine learning to predict failure through all phases of drug development.

8. PHIRE – Manage your medications for a safer, healthier family.

Register to Attend

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Introducing McGill’s newest entrepreneurship space

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 11:45

McGill University now has a new collaborative entrepreneurship space where McGill founders and startup teams can work on their early stage projects.

Located in our new offices at 3430 Rue McTavish, McGill founders and startups teams from across all faculties and schools at the university will be able to work with McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship staff and mentors to help turn their ideas into reality, in time for the McGill Dobson Cup 2018 competition this coming winter semester.

The drop-in collaborative entrepreneurship space will be open from 10AM to 5PM, Monday to Friday.

For more information on the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship space, please see the link below. We ask founders and teams to only fill out the form below on the day of using the space.

McGill Dobson Collaborative Entrepreneurship Space Registration Form

McGill Dobson Collaborative Entrepreneurship Space Registration Form The new entrepreneurship collaborative space at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship open 10AM-5PM, Monday to Friday at 3430 Rue McTavish, Montreal, QC

The post Introducing McGill’s newest entrepreneurship space appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

Startup Spotlight: SmartAirFilters

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 10:00

Editor’s Note: Thomas Talhelm is a professor of behavioral science at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. His company Smart Air Filters is democratizing clean air by providing cheap, effective air purifiers for homes and offices. As a professor, he researches how southern China’s history of rice farming gave it a different culture from the wheat-growing north. His work has been featured on National Geographic, as well as The Economist.  He also teaches a course on negotiation strategy.

In this interview, he shares how he got started battling the air pollution problem in China at a micro level, as well as some tips on handling negotiations. To learn more about Smart Air Filters, go to their website here (China) or here. (India)

How he got the idea

A lot of people have the goal of starting a business. I didn’t. I didn’t care about business – I just wanted to solve a problem. The business aspect came after because I realized it was necessary so that I could help more people.

I had lived in China for several years and was there in 2013 on a Fulbright scholarship doing psychology research. And of course, the air pollution was bad. We had many “Airpocalypses”, where the Air Quality Index was above 500. Just to give you an idea of what that means, the World Health Organization’s annual limit is 10 micrograms. In Beijing, it was over 500 micrograms. I was coughing on and off for weeks, and had a recurring cold. Of course I was worried about the air quality outside, but then I started thinking about INSIDE. I mean, if the AQI is 800 outside and indoor air quality was about half of what it is outdoors, that’s still a dangerous 400 inside. Naturally, I was concerned about my health.

I Googled it and realized that an air purifier is just a fan and a filter

I did some Googling, and my first thought was: are air purifiers BS? So I bought a particle counter for a couple hundred bucks and started to run some tests. Now, a $1000 air purifier wouldn’t have been a reasonable purchase for me at the time given my budget, so I had to get creative. Once again, I Googled it and realized that an air purifier is just a fan and a filter. I then bought a HEPA filter from Taobao (the ebay of China) and stuck it on an old fan I had lying around.

Thomas’ first prototype looked like this – a fan and a filter tied together with measuring tape. This is a great example of how bare-bones a Minimum Viable Product should be. How he got his first customers, and grew organically

I published everything online: how I made the purifier, the particle counter I used, the test data, everything. Long story short, I ended up holding a workshop on air quality – so I bought 20 fans and velcro straps and filters, with no idea whether or not people would show up.

The event sold out. So I kept doing more workshops and eventually the media showed up, and I realized people care about this. People want to take measures against the air quality problem. I kept on getting questions about how to build these purifiers. So I thought, what if I just ship people the purifier, already built? My original intention was to manufacture a low-cost purifier, but that ended up taking a lot longer than I thought. I wanted to work on something more immediately.

I always feed the profit back into the company, so I can help more people.

As easy as it was to DIY it, a lot of people didn’t have the time or the patience to build it, so I shipped pre-made DIYs to people. I took these basic air purifiers – remember, just a fan and a filter – and started selling them on Taobao. There was no advertising involved – all my sales were through word of mouth. I framed the business like a social enterprise: I always feed the profit back into the company, so I can help more people. At this point, Smart Air has held over 200 workshops, we have 6 full-time employees, and offices in Beijing and Delhi. We even have a shipping company that warehouses and ships them.

SmartAirFilters got its first clients through doing workshops, teaching people how to build cheap air purifiers. Common mistakes people make when it comes to negotiations, and what to do instead

Mistake 1: People aren’t aggressive enough when they’re negotiating.

Most people go in and make an offer that they think is a reasonable final offer. In reality, you should make a more aggressive offer (one that leaves you better off), and then re-negotiate from there. That’s because the negotiating game is going to be played no matter what your initial offer is. If you start with a reasonable offer, you’ll end up having to concede further from there.

What to do instead: Start with a very aggressive offer.

Mistake 2: People think that making the first move is bad.

I poll my students every year, and the majority of my MBA students think you should let the other person make the first offer. People don’t like to make the first offer, but studies show that people who make the first offer tend to get better deals.

What to do instead: Make the first move.

Thomas suggests 2 things when it comes to negotiating: Be aggressive, and make the first offer. A few tips on negotiating better using the above strategies:

A lot of people don’t want to make an aggressive offer because they’re afraid of offending the other side – my experience has been that people are overestimating the offense. Also, you can always pull back and make a more reasonable offer if they outright refuse or ignore you.

If you can make the first move in a negotiation with an aggressive but educated offer, you’ll usually be better off making the first offer.

The second thing is, you need to do your homework and justify the offer you’re making – research and compare current prices, the costs & benefits, pros & cons of the deal. I’m not encouraging you to make the first move if you have no idea what you’re talking about. But if you can make the first move in a negotiation with an aggressive but educated offer, you’ll usually be better off making the first offer.

Learn more about SmartAirFilters here, and about Thomas Talhelm’s work here.

The post Startup Spotlight: SmartAirFilters appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

The Story of Kiffin: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 21:40

Prologue (Editor’s Note)

Everybody likes good food. Not everybody has access to it. And not all good food is good for the planet, or the people preparing it.

That’s why McGill MBA alum Natasha Alani and chef Aaron Fetherston started Kiffin. They’re on a mission to make real food accessible to real people. And they’re doing it while running an operation that’s sustainable and ethical every step of the way.

They offer a farm-to-office food experience for workplaces. Their next move? Re-opening their restaurant.

This heroic journey spans across several chapters. It involves moving from San Francisco to Montreal, a building burning down, and what seemed like a potential lawsuit. As you read between the lines and see the pattern of Kiffin getting up every time they fall, you’ll see there’s more to it than a series of hardships.

It’s a story of resilience and renewal. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of its predecessor, Kiffin has gotten up every time it has fallen. And not only did they get up, they got stronger.

Before you turn to chapter 1, keep in mind Kiffin’s story isn’t over, and that you can be a part of it’s ongoing epilogue by signing up for their grand opening weekend’s pajama brunches with an exclusive discount. Just click here. (Discount code: DOBSON)

Support Kiffin and taste amazing food by signing up for their grand opening weekend’s pajama brunches with an exclusive discount. Just click here. (Discount code: DOBSON)

Chapter 1: Bienvenue à Montréal

When we were still working in San Francisco, I already knew we were onto something.

It was 2011 when I realized that the general public – especially the middle class in America, did not have access to sustainable, healthy food.

And that’s just not okay.

If what you put in your body affects your cognitive ability, and not everyone has access to high-quality fuel, how can you assume that everyone is playing on a level playing field with equal opportunity to be smart and productive? Education is an important piece of human development, but there’s more to it. We need to make sure people are eating well.

Based on past experiences in social work and non-profits, I realized that the best way to accomplish this was actually to build a solid business. Along with that, I needed to have all the social pieces in place.  If you drive enough demand, you can affect the system from within it.

What I found in San Francisco was that really, really wealthy people liked our food and could afford it. But getting it to people that needed it was hard, and expensive.

I needed to scale up to increase access to real food, and doing it there was so expensive I just couldn’t do it.

I had 3 options: I could either sell out, give up, or find another way.

And that’s when I decided to come to Montreal.

Natasha pitching Kiffin at DocuSign offices during Demo Day in San Francisco.

Chapter 2: The Fire

We had our grand opening in May of 2017. And for 6 days, things were great. We had people lining up outside for our food, staff that we adored, and more business than we knew what to do with.

The next day, I got a call at 7AM from the landlord. And she said “Natasha, there’s been a fire. Call your insurance, and you might want to come by.”

Nobody was hurt, and it didn’t happen in our space – it was next door. I actually thought it wasn’t that big a deal, and actually went about my day normally – I got a lot of things done. Then I called my insurance, and made my way to the place around 10AM

And that’s when I realized this was serious.

The ceiling had fallen in. You could smell the smoke – I couldn’t breathe. The kitchen and bathrooms were destroyed. As an entrepreneur, I was still optimistic and thinking I could handle this. I went and pitched the next day to the McGill X-1 Accelerator to get into the program for the summer as planned. But those first few days weren’t as bad as the next few months.

It took 2 months for us to get the news that there was asbestos in the building. We still didn’t know when we could begin to use the space again. We were a fledgling business at the mercy of everyone else.

And that’s a vulnerable place to be as a startup because I didn’t have money coming in from anywhere else. We understood more about how insurance works than anyone could ever want to.

I had to make sure that my village – all the mentors, customers, and champions rooting for us, knew that we were going to come out the other side okay. And I had to do that even though I wasn’t even sure we were going to be okay.

So we tightened up all our costs to prepare for the long storm, and we were lucky enough to be accepted into the McGill X-1 Accelerator. That’s what forced me to look past the tragedy of the moment, and keep my eye on the big picture for our business. That way, we could become investment-ready for Demo Days and extend our influence and get support from all over the continent.

Chapter 3: You’ve been served

When a setback happens, there are a lot of stakeholders. And all of them are in a bad situation, regardless of how big or small they are, because they’re worried about their livelihoods.

One night about 3 months after the fire I get home around 10PM, and there’s just a card from a bailiff. It says “Urgent.”

I have no idea what this is about. It doesn’t say anything: who it’s from, what they want, nothing. I stayed up all night long wondering “Have I done anything wrong? Do I owe anybody money? Have I upset an employee? Who could want to sue me? I’m not important enough to sue!”

And by 6AM the next day, I had went through all my mental records and I realized I didn’t do anything wrong. I met up with the bailiff and he explained who it was from. And the letter was basically a heavy-handed way of reminding me what my legal responsibilities were.

I consider myself a savvy business person. I care about a lot of things that make a business work. But business is also administrative, and there’s a lot of infrastructure. And I didn’t really  understand those parts.

After “being served” as a matter of procedure I started to really understand these less creative, more infrastructural (and equally important) parts of a business.

Startups may miss this because when you start out you have to move fast and break things, but once you have something to protect, the skills you need to succeed totally change.

Natasha and Aaron were part of the Core X-1 team that participated in Demo Days in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City. They are pictured on the right during their visit to Sequoia Capital.

Appendix A: The Silver Linings

These challenges forced me to get more clear than ever about what we stand for. That earned us credibility. It’s really difficult to show people how much you care and at the same time prove that you can manage the financial health of your company. By continuing to make sales, participate in the accelerator, and fight in the face of uncertainty, I was able to demonstrate my passion to the world.

In fact, it did more than that. I reached out to people and included them as part of a collaborative process during the challenge. Through this, I was able to deepen my relationships with a lot of my supporters. I really would like to thank the mentors from the McGill X-1 Accelerator including Natalie Voland, Andrea Courey and Jeff Baikowitz! They are all amazing McGill entrepreneurs who really had my back and talked me through the darkest days.

Also, I learned a lot. There are parts of business that I thought I knew, but was completely blindsided by. I did my undergrad in Finance, and got an MBA from two of the best business schools, but there’s stuff you only learn when there’s a TKO of epic proportions. I’m glad I learned this while the business was still small.

To our beloved Kiffin Community. Yesterday May 1st, at around 5am, a fire broke out in the business above ours. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. However, our space…your space…must remain temporarily closed. We are working on finding a temporary alternative space and we will keep you posted. Feel free to message us or join our email list for more information. GOOD FOOD IS A RIGHT! All of our beautiful goodies and classes will be back as soon as possible! Thank you for the kind messages, offers for help, and love. It means the world not only to us but to all of the people who have worked so hard to get us this far.

A post shared by Kiffin™️ (@cafekiffin) on May 2, 2017 at 9:11am PDT

Appendix B: How Kiffin persevered

At the point that our business is now, it’s important to more than just me. It’s important to my cofounder Aaron. There’s also my staff, our customers, and mentors who have put in so much time to help me get this off the ground.

I didn’t think it was fair to all these people to suddenly lose my strength of vision just because things got hard.

They believed in me when I was in a strong position. I needed to stay strong. I was very aware of how many people I got engaged in this vision, and I couldn’t let them down.

To sign up for our grand opening weekend’s pajama brunches with an exclusive discount, click here. (Discount code: DOBSON)

Epilogue: How this launch is going to be different from the last one

Clasically trained at Le Cordon Blue Portland, chef Aaron Fetherston has worked as Chef and General manager at top West Coast establishments, such as The Heathman in Portland, Sweet Woodruff and Square (of the Michelin earning Son’s and Daughters group) in San Francisco.

Our first launch was in the spring. It’s been 6 months since then; winter has come. To make it through the winter we have reimagined what Kiffin could be in the winter. How can we survive the winter while maintaining what we stand for?

So we came up with this 6-month concept with 2 components.

Every night, we have a mac & cheese bar with seasonal vegetable side dishes and ancient grains. These are things that traditionally don’t go together. But when you think of autumn and a gorgeous squash side dressed in a way you’ve never imagined. Or imagine a mac & cheese topped with vegan chili or made to accommodate vegans, and those with celiac disease. Your perception can change. It feels like winter, it’s sustainable, it’s healthy, and it makes both our customers and our employees happy.

On the weekends we do pajama brunches. These are pre-sold, and are like small parties. There are 2 seatings: one at 10:30 and one at 2:30. By booking in advance, you help us eliminate food waste. And by doing that, the quality of the food you eat goes up – we’re not buying more than we need, so you get fresh ingredients and the savings pass on to you!

What’s in your lunch today? Ours is a Mexicali Autumnal Harvest!!! #stuffedsweetpotato #veganchili #vegan #chili #chimichurri #blueberry #rose #scone #mtl #autumn #fall #harvest #warmup

A post shared by Kiffin™️ (@cafekiffin) on Nov 7, 2017 at 8:26am PST

There’s also great beer, wine, and cocktails. We’re making the best food possible, under the supervision of Chef Aaron, with special consideration given to dietary restrictions. Our location is a converted 19th century home! Make no mistake – we’re not a traditional restaurant. It really feels like a brunch in someone’s house where you can meet new people, try new flavours, and you’re being served by an incredible Chef and a talented team. That’s Kiffin!

To sign up for our grand opening weekend’s pajama brunches with an exclusive discount, click here. (Discount code: DOBSON)

The post The Story of Kiffin: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

McGill Demo Days 2017 – Highlights from Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 01:49

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity for the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship. Beginning in Montreal, we took our most promising startups from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 and the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 on tour to Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City over the course of September and October.

We were delighted to return to Boston and San Francisco for the second year in a row, hosting events while also reconnecting with McGill alumni in the area. We also added Toronto and New York City to the agenda this year.

McGill Demo Days 2017 in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City

A lot of progress has been made around entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill these past few years. By way of our McGill Demo Day events featuring a number of 5-minute pitches from our startup founders, we were excited to highlight this progress in person with McGill alumni in each of these cities.

At the core of these Demo Day events is our mission to find, teach and develop world-class entrepreneurs at McGill. Knowing that we can help build world-class companies at McGill — to truly be world-class, we recognized that we had to get out of Montreal, providing exposure for our startups to the different markets and opportunities that exist outside of the city, beginning with Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City.

Renjie Butalid, Associate Director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, hosting McGill San Francisco Demo Day held at the DocuSign offices – September 19, 2017

Similar to last year, leveraging the McGill Alumni Network was a valuable component for our McGill Demo Days 2017 tour. Site visits and roundtable discussions with McGill alumni in each of the cities proved to be just as valuable for our founders as the Demo Day events themselves.

In addition to the events, it was great to have the opportunity to have conversations in a more casual roundtable setting with experienced and successful McGill alumni entrepreneurs, where they shared their respective stories and lessons learned along the way with our startup founders. We also had a number of meetings lined up with investors and VCs in each city as well.

Packed house at McGill Toronto Demo Day hosted at the Shopify offices – October 3, 2017

Overall, we had ten teams from this year’s cohort of the McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Dobson Cup participate in McGill Demo Days 2017.

Learn more about their experiences below and check out the videos of the pitches from some of the teams. Videos of the pitches were filmed at McGill New York City Demo Day on October 10, 2017 held at the Spring offices in Manhattan.

Missed @mcgillu #Montreal #DemoDay on Sep 12? Check out our blog post recap on The Dobson Chronicles! #startup

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 18, 2017

McGill Boston Demo Day – September 14, 2017

Our first stop following McGill Montreal Demo Day on September 12 was Boston.

While in Boston, we had the opportunity to meet with Steve Kokinos, a Finalist Judge in the McGill Dobson Cup and Co-founder and Executive Chairman of technology company Fuze.

At Fuze, a technology company with over 700 employees in multiple cities worldwide, Steve is responsible for corporate strategy — we had the opportunity to talk with Steve about the challenges of building your team as your company grows and scales exponentially.

Many thanks to @stevekokinos, Executive Chairman and Co-founder @fuze for hosting our @mcgillu startups at their office in #Boston yesterday

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 15, 2017

We’d like to thank McDermott Will and Emery for hosting McGill Boston Demo Day 2017 in their offices. We’re also grateful to the McGill Alumni Association of Boston who provided a lot of support with outreach to local McGill alumni in the Boston area.

Stuart Paap (left) of the McGill Boston Alumni Association and Jennifer Bock (right), lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery, at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017 1. Saccade Analytics Saccade Analytics running a demo of their analytics platform at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

Saccade Analytics participated in the McGill Lean Startup Program 2016, emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Health Sciences Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Saccade Analytics aims to revolutionize the way doctors diagnose concussions and neurological disorders.

Watch Iman Haji, Co-founder and CEO of Saccade Analytics, pitch below.

2. Dialysave Vivian Eberle, Co-founder and COO of Dialysave at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

Dialysave emerged as 3rd Place Winners in the Health Sciences Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Dialysave aims to provide widespread access to dialysis for patients suffering from End Stage Renal Disease, both locally and throughout the world. They are currently developing a Portable Dialysis Unit (PDU) that is designed to be wearable, which will allow patients to dialyze more frequently. Their PDU relies on a nanobiomaterial to absorb harmful solutes from patients’ blood, thus eliminating the need for dialysate.

Watch Anya Pogharian’s TEDxYouth@Montreal Talk below from 2016, Co-founder and CEO, where she talks about the motivation behind starting Dialysave.

3. 2D-CrystaLab Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, Co-founder and CEO of 2D-CyrstaLab at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

2D-CrystaLab participated in the McGill Lean Startup Program 2016, made it to the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 in the Health Sciences Track, and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

2D-CrystaLab is an innovative nanobiomaterials company that is changing the way implant infections are treated and prevented. Through a product line comprising of dental implant cleaning gels and bone healing gels, their company aims to drastically reduce the rate of implant infections as well as provide a safe and reliable way to treat these ailments.

Watch Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, Co-founder and CEO of 2D-CyrstaLab, pitch below.

Group photo at McGill Boston Demo Day – September 14, 2017

McGill San Francisco Demo Day – September 19, 2017

Following Boston, we then headed to San Francisco where we had a series of meetings scheduled with a number of investors and McGill alumni entrepreneurs ahead of our main event on September 19, 2017.

Our first stop was at Mizuho where we had the opportunity to meet with Chris Nam and his team, Managing Director and Head of Internet and Digital Media Investment Banking for Mizuho’s North American banking business.

Made it to #SanFranciso! Great to meet with Chris Nam, head of internet and digital media investment banking and his team at @MizuhoAmericas

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 19, 2017

Sonder (formerly known as Flatbook) hosted us at their San Francisco offices where we had a roundtable discussion with Francis Davidson, Co-founder and CEO of the company. Sonder has gone on to become one of the breakaway successes of the McGill Dobson Cup where they competed in 2012.

While they never made it to the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup in their year, that did not stop Francis nor his co-founder Lucas from continuing to build their company, raise a seed round of funding followed by a Series A, all the while growing to become one of the fastest growing hospitality companies in the world.

Many thanks to Francis Davidson, CEO and co-founder of @SonderStays for the mentorship session w/ @mcgillu #startups in their #SF offices

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 19, 2017

While in the Bay Area, we also had the opportunity to meet with Aaref Hilaly, a McGill alum and partner at legendary Silicon Valley VC Sequoia Capital. At their Menlo Park offices, we were able to get into a discussion around Aaref’s experience as both a founder and entrepreneur (CenterRun and Clearwell) prior to his joining Sequoia.

Many thanks to @aaref, @mcgillu alumni and partner at @sequoia for hosting a roundtable discussion and mentorship session with our #startups

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 19, 2017

Following our initial series of meetings, we then made our way to the DocuSign offices in San Francisco, our gracious hosts for McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017.

We’d also like to recognize the McGill Alumni Association of Northern California for their help with outreach to local McGill alumni in the Bay Area. As well as to Montréal International for their support for McGill San Francisco Demo Day.

And the @mcgillu #SanFrancisco #DemoDay event is underway at the @DocuSign offices. Great crowd,amazing view. Thanks to @MTLINTL for support

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 20, 2017

Paul Chesser, Assistant Vice-Principal, Development at McGill University flew in from Montreal to provide opening remarks at McGill San Francisco Demo Day on behalf of the university.

Paul Chesser, Assistant Vice-Principal, Development at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Maher Ayari, Program Manager of the McGill X-1 Accelerator for two summers in a row (and currently a 4th year BCom student at Desautels), also provided opening remarks at the event where he talked about the diversity of this year’s McGill X-1 Accelerator cohort.

Maher Ayari, Program Manager, McGill X-1 Accelerator at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

We’re extremely proud to have had a diverse cohort this year in terms of gender, disciplines, academic experiences and industry verticals. In particular, out of the 25 entrepreneurs in this year’s McGill X-1 cohort, two-thirds of the founders were women.

Impressive stats on how diverse this year’s Mcgill X1 cohort was

— Front Row Ventures (@frontrowvc) September 17, 2017

4. Pelcro Michael Ghattas, Co-founder and CEO of Pelcro at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Pelcro graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Pelcro is a platform for digital media publishers to offer a sustainable AdFree experience and generate new recurring subscriber revenue from AdBlock users. In a few short months, Pelcro has helped a number of websites regain over 100% of their revenue lost due to AdBlock while continuing to generate recurring revenue for them.

Watch Michael Ghattas, Co-founder and CEO of Pelcro, pitch below.

5. Kiffin Natasha Alani, Co-founder and CEO of Kiffin at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Kiffin participated in the inaugural McGill Lean Startup Program 2015 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Kiffin is building a farm-to-office food experience. Their mission is to sustain workplaces everywhere with the highest quality and most sustainable food services. To date, Kiffin has generated over $200K in sales, serving over 5000 customers with 50 percent gross margins.

Watch Natasha Alani, Co-founder and CEO of Kiffin, pitch below.

To wrap up the evening, we were delighted to welcome Terry Cowl, Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, to provide closing remarks on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Terry Cowl, Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

 Proud to have @CanCGSF participate at today’s #DemoDay event with such inspiring #entrepreneurs!

— Terry Cowl (@tcowl) September 20, 2017

Group photo at McGill San Francisco Demo Day – September 19, 2017

We would also like to thank Ned Taleb, a McGill alum and serial entrepreneur now based in San Francisco, for hosting our entire cohort of startup founders for a celebratory dinner following McGill San Francisco Demo Day.

Well deserved celebratory dinner with the @mcgillu @DobsonCentre #startups in #SF Thanks to @NedTaleb, @McGillAlumni for hosting!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 20, 2017

The following morning, we made our way to the Palo Alto headquarters of IDEO for the second year in a row where we met with McGill alum Griffin Thomson, a Principal Designer who gave us a tour of their premises. Similar to last year, Griffin then ran a design thinking workshop for our cohort to wrap up our tour at IDEO HQ.

Visit to @ideo HQ in #PaloAlto this morning with our @mcgillu @DobsonCentre #startups! Thanks to @griffinthomson, @McGillAlumni #design

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 20, 2017

Our last stop in Silicon Valley was Fundbox, where McGill alums Matt Brightman and Ben Gruber led a roundtable discussion with Fundbox Founder and CEO Eyal Shinar. Fundbox is a technology company that focuses on helping small business owners overcome occasional short-term cash flow gaps. Fundbox has raised USD $108 million over 3 rounds of funding to date.

Thanks to @Matt_Brightman and @bennygruber for welcoming @mcgillu @DobsonCentre to @fundbox offices yesterday! Cc: @McGillAlumni #fintech

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) September 21, 2017

McGill Toronto Demo Day – October 3, 2017

Following San Francisco, we then headed to Toronto. Our first stop in the city the day before McGill Toronto Demo Day, included attending the TakeOver Innovation Conference. It was great to see Montreal representation at the conference, largely by way of Montreal-based Element AI having a strong presence throughout the conference.

Illuminating panel on #AI, hype vs. reality at the #takeoverconference in Toronto

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 2, 2017

Following the TakeOver Innovation Conference, we then headed to the DMZ at Ryerson University to learn more about what our peers at other Canadian education institutions were doing to help build and support the startup and entrepreneurship ecosystems in their city.

Many thanks to @jdabecker from @RyersonDMZ for showing us around yesterday. Appreciate the #startup tour and sharing lessons learned!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 3, 2017

Shortly before the main event on October 3, we made our way to MaRS in the early afternoon, where we got a tour of this world-class urban innovation district located in the heart of downtown Toronto, allowing entrepreneurs access to corporations, investors, mentors, university institutions and labs to test their concepts.

Thank you @adamspence and @bridgetzhaaang for the roundtable discussion and tour of @MaRSDD today! Incredible Canadian #innovation hub!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 3, 2017

Delighted to have @mcgillu #Toronto #DemoDay underway at the @Shopify offices! So great to see many @McGillAlumni out!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 3, 2017

We’re grateful to Shopify for hosting McGill Toronto Demo Day in their offices. We were also strongly supported by McGill Alumni Relations with organizing the event, including event logistics and inviting alumni based in Toronto to attend — thank you!

Part of the team that brought together the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017: (L-R) Maher Ayari, Program Manager; Sarah Barker, Program Relations Coordinator; Renjie Butalid, Associate Director – at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

We also had the pleasure of welcoming the Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management, Isabelle Bajeux, who flew in from Montreal to provide opening remarks at McGill Toronto Demo Day on behalf of Desautels and the university.

Dean Isabelle Bajeux, Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017 6. Basilisk Michael Di Genova, Founder and CEO of Basilisk at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Basilisk competed in the McGill Dobson Cup 2015 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Basilisk is an education technology company that aims to optimize study time and rethink the learning experience by empowering students to create their own practice questions. Not only do students recall the material better, they also understand the concepts better.

7. YUMiBOX Zoey Li, Co-founder and CEO of YUMiBOX at McGill Toronto Demo Day

YUMiBOX emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Small & Medium Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2016, while also taking home the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize that same year. They also graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

YUMiBOX makes it easy, simple and delicious to eat a variety of whole grains. With a vision led by a team of dietitians to help people switch away from refined carbohydrates toward healthier complex carbs. Healthy eating done the right way with clean label, wholesome food products.

8. Will+Zack Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO of Will + Zack at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Will+Zack competed in the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 where they made it to the Finals. They also graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Will+Zack makes made-to-measure professional womenswear. Their tagline? Their fashion house only makes one size. Yours.

Watch Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO of Will+Zack, pitch below.

9. Audible Reality Matt Boerum, Co-founder and CEO of Audible Reality at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Audible Reality emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Innovation Driven Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017.

Audible Reality is what happens when you get two PhD students from the McGill Schulich School of Music (who also happen to be Grammy and Emmy-award winners) teamed up with an IP lawyer. Audible Reality develops revolutionary 3D audio imaging technology to capture and deliver fully immersive, life-like sound from any source.

Watch Matt Boerum, Co-founder and CEO of Audible Reality, pitch below.

Group photo at McGill Toronto Demo Day – October 3, 2017

The next day, a number of our startup founders spent the morning with former McGill Dobson Cup participant and Y Combinator alum Charlie Feng at the Clearbanc offices in Toronto.

Thanks to @mcgillu alum, former #DobsonCup participant and @ycombinator alum @charliecfeng from @clearbanc for hosting us in #Toronto!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 6, 2017

McGill New York City Demo Day – October 10, 2017

Our final stop on our tour was New York City. We were excited to meet with a number of McGill alumni while we were in the city. This included a roundtable discussion with Aaron Stern, a McGill alum and now Director at investment management firm Fir Tree Partners.

Great meeting with @McGillAlumni Aaron Stern, Director at #FirTreePartners in their #NYC offices this morning! cc: @mcgillu

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 10, 2017

This was followed by a meeting with Mergen Davaapil, another McGill alum and Managing Director, Americas & Europe for Third Bridge. Third Bridge provides private equity firms, hedge funds and strategy consultants with the information that they need to understand the value of their investment opportunities. We were also joined by Brett Holloway, Vice President at Fortress Investment Group.

The last meeting of the day included a visit to the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, one of NYC’s leading tech accelerator programs. Macromeasures, a Finalist in the McGill Dobson Cup 2014, graduated from the ERA NYC program in the summer of 2015.

Thanks to @ERoundtable for hosting @DobsonCentre @DesautelsMcGill in #NYC! One week left to apply for W18 program!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 30, 2017

We’re grateful to Spring for hosting our McGill NYC Demo Day event in their offices in Manhattan.

Spring is one of the fastest growing e-commerce platforms that connects retails and shoppers using a direct-to-consumer sales model. Originally from Montreal, we were welcomed to the space by Nick D’Urbano, Head of Global Partnerships for Spring.

Nick D’Urbano, Head of Global Partnerships for Spring, at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

Excited to kickoff our #NYC #DemoDay event! Thanks to @shopspring for hosting us in your Manhattan office! Cc: @mcgillu @DesautelsMcGill

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 10, 2017

So happy to be at the @DobsonCentre pitch event in #nyc #startups #mcgillalumni

— Lana Tayara (@LTayara) October 10, 2017

We were again delighted to welcome Dean Isabelle Bajeux from the Desautels Faculty of Management who provided some opening remarks at McGill NYC Demo Day.

From L-R: Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO, Will+Zack; Isabelle Bajeux, Dean, Desautels Faculty of Management; Natasha Saviuk, Co-founder and Creative Director, Will+Zack at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

Stephen Harper, Director of London-based Strathmore Investments Ltd., and long-time Finalist Judge of the McGill Dobson Cup and supporter of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, also provided opening remarks at McGill NYC Demo Day.

Stephen Harper, Director of London-based Strathmore Investments Ltd., at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017 10. BG Therapeutics Will Lepry, Co-founder of BG Therapeutics at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

BG Therapeutics emerged as winners of the inaugural L’Oréal-Dobson Startup Award in this year’s McGill Dobson Cup 2017.

BG Therapeutics aims to treat dentin hypersensitivity (sensitive teeth) at a much faster rate by using their patent-pending process for making bioactive glass. Other applications also include using their product as a bone filling material for small bone defects including those for dental surgery.

Watch Will Lepry, Co-founder of BG Therapeutics, pitch below.

Group photo at McGill New York City Demo Day – October 10, 2017

Where it takes a village to raise a child, to truly build a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill requires an entire ecosystem of people and organizations connected with the university to contribute and play a role. At the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and on behalf of our founders and startups, we would like to thank everyone involved for making McGill Demo Days 2017 a success.

We’re excited to continue this important work of entrepreneurship ecosystem building at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship that extends well beyond the walls of McGill and Montreal and truly leverages the 250,000 plus network of McGill alumni around the world.

We look forward to returning to these cities again next year and perhaps, adding additional cities to our roster.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and our programs in a mentorship capacity, want to host an event in your city in the upcoming year, or provide support directly to help us build capacity as the centre for entrepreneurship at McGill, feel free to reach out at or on Twitter @dobsoncentre.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the John Dobson Foundation for its support of the McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Demo Days.

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Startup Spotlight: Upstart – Entrepreneurship meets Dungeons & Dragons

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 10:00

Editor’s Note: This summer, Richard Dacalos – educator, coach, and founder of a startup board game called Upstart, visited the McGill X-1 Accelerator and played a game with us. I was curious about his journey, as well as his thoughts on learning with games, so I decided to just interview him and share the insights with our readers. Upstart, which has been featured on Huffington Post, does a great job at teaching entrepreneurial skills, but more importantly, it’s a lot of fun!

On the value of a risk-free, startup life simulation

Richard Dacalos – founder of Upstart

1. Experimentation and making mistakes to learn is encouraged: you can play at business the way your real-life self would, or experiment and do things differently to see if there’s any value there. The game is designed to reveal some of your habits and mindsets around entrepreneurship. Unless you’re really intentional about it, you’ll probably stick to your regular habits.

There was one guy who discovered he was a wantrepreneur. In real life, he would go to a lot of pitch competitions without really developing something tangible. In the game, he was looking for followers without building something. Then he realized he was doing the same thing in real life. A few weeks after noticing this about himself, he came back to me and showed me that he made progress on a simple shirt business. And he believes Upstart was the reason he went that way because it illuminated his real life habits in a gentle way that allowed him to notice it himself, without any real life losses.

We’ve essentially compressed 2-3 years of startup experience in a 2-3 hour game…and the game shows you that life and business are interweaved, not separate.”

2. Also, there’s great value in seeing time and money as resources you hold in your hand. When you realize that those things are limited, you become very intentional about how you spend them – which is how it should be in real-life, although most people don’t necessarily act like it.

3. Finally, it’s a great game to gauge whether or not entrepreneurship is for you. It can serve as testing grounds to see what an entrepreneur’s life is like. We’ve essentially compressed 2-3 years of startup experience in a 2-3 hour game. The choices you make will affect your outcome, and the game shows you that life and business are interweaved, not separate. For example, your health, the quality of your relationships (whether it’s your family or your professional network), and the success of your business, are all dependent on each other.

What is it about games that makes them such a great learning tool?

The research on gamification is out there: it increases engagement unlike anything else. And it’s fun. We’ve had to go through several iterations to engineer the right balance between learning and fun.

The first MVP was too real and serious – economic downturns could destroy your business, there would be nothing you could do about it, and you’d lose hours worth of progress. That would be a realistic simulation, but isn’t that fun.

So we prototype, gather feedback, and then test a new version of the game: Remember, we’re a startup too.

To learn more about Upstart or support their Kickstarter efforts, visit

How Upstart works

It’s like any role-playing game. You get to choose your character, which determines how your attributes start off including your salary, how strong your network is, and how much business influence you have.

Then everyone rolls the dice (which can simulate the luck factor often ignored in entrepreneurship) and the game becomes a matter of doing the best with the cards you’re dealt. You move along the board, like in life. There’s also a game master who will help guide the players and act an as invisible hand to keep the game balance and moving forward.

Just like real-life, you can get sick because you’re neglecting your health and overworking for example, and lose a turn where you can’t work on your business.”

The strategy part is the cornerstone: you can use time and money to make decisions – and you’ve got limited amounts of both. A full-time employee would only have 15 hours to spend towards improving their business each week through a variety of tasks like networking, marketing, or hiring someone. A full-time entrepreneur would have 50, although they would have less capital to work with.

What’s fun is the way that your attributes, like health, come into play. Just like real-life, you can get sick because you’re neglecting your health and overworking for example, and lose a turn where you can’t work on your business.

There’s no one way to win. Instead, there are FOUR ways:

  1. Scale your business – A certain amount of capital that the business needs to attain
  2. Too popular to ignore – 10 000 followers, for example
  3. Cashcow – attaining a certain amount of personal wealth
  4. Stability – building a business that stands the test of time; one that generates a certain amount of capital every turn
Upstart is played in over 20 different countries to help people develop entrepreneurial skills, without any of the real-life risks.

How real-life skills come into play to win

There were some games where people were making deals among themselves on the side, using REAL money, to win the game. This is a great example of people improving their negotiation skills through Upstart.

And there’s actually a tile in the game where if you land on it, you have to do an elevator pitch for your in-game company, and the other players vote pass or fail. In this case, you’re having to demonstrate your speaking skills and your understanding of your business in 30 seconds when your in-game business is on the line.

Schools haven’t changed since the 1800s, and Upstart wants to revolutionize the way people learn.”

On teaching a gamified entrepreneurship course

I had a conversation with the director of a college here, and they needed an entrepreneurship course. I’m always looking for unique ways to teach, so I thought: “Why don’t we teach a course where the whole course is a game?”

Schools haven’t changed since the 1800s, and Upstart wants to revolutionize the way people learn. And we’ve managed to do it in a field that is ripe. We talk about innovation and disruptive all the time, but the very way it’s taught is lagging.


Some of the formative experiences that helped Richard develop Upstart

I played great games like Kiyosaki’s Cashflow which taught me a lot, but didn’t simulate entrepreneurship well. Along the same time, I tried and failed launching a number of businesses. I also played role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, as well as video-game RPGs. Certain games like the Game of Thrones card game are really well polished and gave me some models to emulate.

But one of the biggest experiences that helped me create Upstart was my time as a curriculum developer. That’s what really got me thinking in the mindset of: “What are the learning outcomes I want people to get?”

All of those experiences then came together when I created Upstart – a role-playing entrepreneurship game that teaches people real skill sets, and useful mental models.

Upstart is a Startup itself

When I began working on Upstart, I treated it like any other business. I started by immersing myself into the market: going to board game events, playing every game I could get my hands on, and hitting the streets to ask real people questions.

Then I made the MVP in a WEEK for my team to play with, and test it in over 20 different countries. It was raw, it was ugly, and people still played it. And that’s when we knew we were onto something. 2 or 3 iterations later, we started our first round of crowdfunding.

To make sure quality was good, I went through and inspected by hand, every copy of the game myself. (Editor’s note: This is a great example of how doing things that don’t scale can help jumpstart your business in the early stages)

How Upstart is different from its competitors

This is really a game to TEACH entrepreneurship – it’s not just a distraction. In fact, we offer a total package for schools (from over 20 different countries) if they license it. The game can serve as a processing tool in an incubator to help think about real life business. When you play with others, you’re evaluating their moves.

I remember this example where a player was playing as a full-time employee and working on something on the side, which was also her real-life situation. Then she saw everyone else playing and noticed how fast they were moving. Their businesses were moving at 2-3X the pace of hers, simply because she was only part-time. A few weeks later, she quit her real-life job and went full-time to grow her business. That’s the kind of impact Upstart can have.

To learn more about Upstart or support their Kickstarter efforts, visit


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Recap: The Role of Public Policy in Social Innovation

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 14:26

Last week we had our second Social Entrepreneurship event (here‘s the recap for the first) – this time focusing on the role of public policy. As much as entrepreneurs are empowered to make a difference, larger problems can’t be solved without collaboration. And as we learned during the event, the government needs to be part of that collaboration – especially for financing efforts! Special thanks to the McConnell Foundation for helping us host the event!

Do you have an opinion on the matter, or a social enterprise? Or maybe you’d like to share how we can use social innovation and social finance to build stronger communities? Be heard by clicking here! 

The event was divided into 3 parts: 1 for each speaker. There was also a breakout session at the end for active discussion regarding the issues that were discussed.

Part 1

WHO: Jonathan Glencross

• Co-founder, Canadian Entrepreneurship Initiative
• Director of Strategic Growth, Purpose Capital
• Director, Nexus Canada

Whereas much of the world is focused on problems and our growing set of difficulties, Jonathan showed us the roses among the thorns – startups that have done a tremendous job at both making an impact and showing rapid growth.

Here’s an example of one of those roses:

Takeaway: Social Innovation doesn’t have to be small

Gone are the days of small-scale social enterprises that never think about profit and growth. Although traditional business growth often leads to more inequality and increases in carbon emissions, it doesn’t have to be this way.

We may be seeing a new wave of social entrepreneurs. These are people who think that markets can be a force for good, and that having a large social component to it makes them a MORE viable business. It’s not enough to have morally good intentions, you need to be 10X better than current solutions.

Part 2

WHO: Jennifer Gammad Lockerby

• Social Innovation Fellow @ RECODE, McConnell Foundation

Are you aware of the McGill Bubble?

Jennifer certainly was when she was a student here, and she warned us of its dangers.

It’s like we’re in a cloud 30000 feet above from the community that surrounds us” – Jennifer Lockerby (on the McGill Bubble)

Although focusing all your time and energy within the campus is not inherently bad, it does make it difficult to get the surrounding community engaged. Since community engagement is a large part of social innovation, you can see how the Bubble can get us into trouble.

But should universities even care about responding to social challenges? Jennifer’s answer is a resounding YES.

2 examples of social innovation in universities

ECOLE (McGill)

The ECOLE project is a venture scheduled to begin its pilot year in September 2014 wherein 8-12 participants will pursue collective sustainable living and learning as they reside at the MORE house on 3559 rue University. Material (energy and water conservation, Carbon footprint) and social (collective living, social justice) sustainability are the focus of the ECOLE project and its coordinators have spent a year on networking and research to develop a base plan and guiding principles.

Diversity Food Services (University of Winnipeg)

Diversity Food Services is a joint venture of the University of Winnipeg’s Community Renewal Corporation(UWCRC) & SEED Winnipeg to deliver excellent food services to the University of Winnipeg while providing meaningful employment and ownership opportunities for the community. Together our specific community objectives include job opportunities in the food industry for new Canadians, Aboriginal people, community residents and University students. Diversity’s mission is to provide food services that demonstrate the desire to meet the goals of sustainability at the University within a work environment that reflects a high level of training for the diverse group of employees. We believe that together we can both enhance the quality of food services and develop competencies in all our employees.

Takeaway: Social Entrepreneurs need to collaborate with large institutions in order to scale, not just a grassroots approach

Bootstrapping and doing things that don’t scale is probably the best way to start your journey as an entrepreneur. It helps you develop the mental models necessary for building a business. This includes getting feedback from your customers, learning how to give them a 10X experience, and getting used to making pivots as you see fit.

But there comes a time when you’ve proven your assumptions, and what you really need is GROWTH.

You can continue to putter along, or you can get some help from the big guys. As a social entrepreneur, getting help from educational institutions is one way to expand your reach. And as you can see from the examples above, it works if you can align your mission with the  school’s .

Part 3

WHO: Stephen Huddart

•CEO & President, McConnell Foundation

The government of Canada has committed to developing a Social Innovation & Social Finance Strategy for the country, which will be co-created by June 2018.

The purpose, is to help us attain the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the UN:

Stephen also talked about 6 areas that the government should be investing in to advance social innovation, as identified by The Steering Group:

Takeaway: Enabling framework legislation could serve to recognize the contribution of the social economy, direct
government to consider social impact in designing and implementing policies and programs and support
collaboration between government and social purpose organizations.

Do you have an opinion on the matter, or a social enterprise?

Or maybe you’d like to share how we can use social innovation and social finance to build stronger communities?

Share your thoughts by clicking here! 


The post Recap: The Role of Public Policy in Social Innovation appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

Recap: The Science of Medical Startups

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 13:46

A startup is a newly emerged, fast-growing business that aims to meet a marketplace need by developing a viable business model around innovation. Yet when the market is our medical demands, the road to getting your product there can seem long and dreadful.

That’s why this previous Wednesday at our third event of the season, the Student Executive Team (SET) President of the McGill Dobson Centre, Nicolas Briner, invited two McGill startups, Dialysave and MYOVUE, who were nurtured by the Centre, to share their experiences and insights as successful medical startups.

Viviane Eberle and Alex Paun – Co-founders of Dialysave

Anya Pogharian started Dialysave when she was just 16 years old. Anya developed a passion for dialysis and understanding their patients’ needs when she volunteered in a clinic and noticed that a lot of patients were unhappy with the treatment they were getting.

Dialysis is a solution to kidney failures which results in impaired ability to filter blood. Only about 3% of kidney failure patients get transplants, which are the most efficient long term solution, the rest of the 97% are mostly on some form of dialysis.

Alex and Vivian speaking at our MedTech event about their experiences with Dialysave and the lessons to take away.

What is the accessibility problem with Dialysis machines?

Dialysis machines cost around $30k-$35k. They are very high cost machine with complimentarily costly infrastructure required to make the machine run. A single dialysis center uses over 100-200L of water a day, a very resource heavy treatment, and in part why it is so expensive. But an even greater problem, 90% of the people who need dialysis in the world do not have access to dialysis. Anya wanted to solve this. She wanted to create a dialysis machine that was tremendously less expensive and more financially and physically accessible—and with hours of work, a $30,000 machine became a $500 one.


Testing her Innovation

Anya was able to test her device at Héma-Québec with a blood pouch. Not only did it work, but the results were very successful. An insignificant damaging of the red blood cells proved her innovation worked and made the project seem very promising, and people were quick to catch on. Due to the success of the device and her unconventionally young age, media outlets really quickly took an interest and wrote about Anya’s story.

Clotted Roads

While Anya’s device was successful, everything was not on the road to success. The reality of it was that her innovation had no direction, and more importantly, no team! People were very quick to catch onto Anya’s innovation, too quick for her to even respond. In just the span of a night she woke up to over 80 articles about Dialysave and a denumerable amount of interview requests. Her success in her product quickly began to consume her time.

She kept getting swamped with everything between school and Dialysave. She had no way to create a business out of her successful invention.

Anya Pogharian (Founder & CEO of Dialysave) is pictured on-screen in a panel with Bill Clinton. Vivian Eberle on the right. Read more about their journey in this interview.

How the McGill Dobson Centre Kickstarted Their Journey

She still had such a passion but just didn’t know what to do – her innovation seemed in vain. Anya figured she would stay in University and study nursing and just stick with that.

But last January her friend, and now co-founder Vivian decided to enter the McGill Dobson Cup with her.

The McGill Dobson Cup allowed for Anya and Vivian to organize their strategy. They were also able to meet their CTO (Shawana Habib) through McGill Dobson Match and get a solid foundation as a group before continuing the project. Vivian said that by creating a focused timeline while doing the McGill Dobson Cup really enabled them to get both their school work done and still continue to work on Dialysave. Having won 3rd place in the McGill Dobson Cup, the team felt validated that they had a good idea and business plan and decided they wanted to go on to participate in the McGill X-1 Accelerator.

Through the X-1, they were really encouraged to think about entrepreneurship and their business a lot and differently. It helped them realize the importance of building a team. And since earlier this year they have stretched their board of mentors to outside of just McGill – they’re now a member of the District 3 Innovation Centre at Concordia University. Over the course of the summer, they realized that their problem of making dialysis more accessible may have not been solved by their first machine, and they were ready to start moving forward from there.

Anya and Vivian at the McGill Dobson Cup 2017

Innovative Growth

Before the X-1, they wanted to make machine less expensive, but there are also dialysers and other recurring costs which in the long-run would still add up to make their solution expensive. Dialysave is now trying to make an affordable and wearable dialysis machine that makes dialysis both more affordable and portable. Their solution is through the use of a nanobiomaterial with a high absorbent tolerance that they are working on in conjunction with Dr. Thomas Chang and his lab.

Typical ultrafiltration dialysis passes blood through small membranes and dialysis fluids takes up toxins in the blood and cleans it. Instead of two circuits for blood and dialysis fluid, Dialysave’s nano material will have a high surface area and absorbent material that will capture toxins instead of filtering them. This nano piece will then be able to be thrown out and replaced. This innovative shift in their design production was representative of their values as a social start up– their changes in their product better align with their vision of democratizing dialysis.


What to Expect:

Be ready to tackle on a few years of development, production, and testing. Don’t fixate too much on the regulatory process, it’s better to develop a product and improve it rather than focus on micro-regulations.


What to Take Away

Dialysave has developed a lot since Anya was doing it alone. No matter where you are if you have an idea or concept developed for something and you want to go to the market and make a business and there is a market to profit off it, you should just go out there and find people to help you create a clear direction of where you are going. And you’d also be surprised at the amount of support you would get and the people who will help you in the way.

If you have a vision and a plan that you really believe in, but seemingly nowhere to go, don’t let yourself give up. Along the way you’ll meet the right people. Anya had no way of imagining that she would meet the right people to help turn her innovation into an industry breakthrough, yet she is now the inventor and founder of a medical startup on the road to success.

Jesse at our MedTech event speaking about his experience with developing MYOVUE.

Jesse Ehrlick – Regulatory Finance Manager at MYOVUE

When you go to get a checkup you probably don’t suspect that you will undergo an amputation; yet this is the reality of around 5,000 people a year because of the diagnosis inefficiency of Acute Compartment Syndrome.

Acute Compartment Syndrome (ACS) is typically a consequence of high-impact trauma, most commonly bone fractures. It results when the tissue pressure within a closed muscle compartment exceeds the pressure of fluid passage causing the muscles and nerves to not receive enough blood. The damage of untreated ACS is usually amputation or immobility of the body part in question.


The Problem

ACS is a major limb threatening complication and it can develop unpredictably up to 48 hours after trauma, and the damage it induces becomes irreversible afterwards. However, because of the uncertainty in diagnosis, doctors end up either missing the symptoms or operating on too many people just to avoid possibility of both medical and legal risk.

The main problem in ACS however is not treating it, but rather confidently diagnosing it. MYOVUE is the solution to the lack of adequate diagnosis procedures available to trauma surgeons looking to test for ACS in people with fractures or people who have sustained traumatic injuries.


Market Size

ACS mostly occurs in bone fractures from high trauma and heroin overdose. There are almost 2.5M Long Bone fractures every year, 500k of which are from high energy injuries, and 50k of which will develop ACS, leading to muscle damage when diagnosed late. While diagnosing early to perform surgery is highly effective, 5,000 diagnoses are still too late resulting in amputation or loss of function.

MYOVUE as a Solution

MYOVUE is a single use, highly accurate, continuous remote monitoring device. MYOVUE works with diffusion pressure: it applies a small amount of continuous pressure to muscles to provide real-time, accurate muscle pressure measurement which allows doctors to decide if patients need surgery.

In these cases, elevated pressure is critical and must be monitored. There is currently no efficient and easy way to do it. We are about to solve this problem.” – Chief founder, Dr. Ed. Harvey.

The information from the device gets uploaded to an app where it can be live streamed and monitored. This not only gives physicians a constant and reliable stream of information, but also cuts down on time and staff that would have previously performed more lengthy and less effective measures repeatedly.


How they started

MYOVUE started off from a $350k Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Grant to Chief Medical Officer Ed. Harvey, leader of the Injury Repair and Recovery Program at the McGill University Health Center Research Institute.

Through networking within the biotech field and orthopedic surgeon community, he was able to start a young team along with a recruitment of senior external advisors who were successful in the field of medical technology. Currently the team has medical and biological technology entrepreneurs as well as also a scientific team working in conjunction through the Harvey lab

Setting up a team and having advisors was critical to turn the innovation from a device to a product. With the research from their grant they were able to produce a functional prototype and in 2016 they were ready to start bench testing. After that they were able to start animal testing in 2017 and have since then become patent pending.


Next in Line

MYOVUE enrolled in the McGill X-1 Accelerator in 2016. During this time, they met with mentors in their field and developed a more nuanced understanding for how to address market related inquiries about their product.

They’re now trying to get the remaining $500k in their $2M goal in investment for research and testing. Before they can enter the market, they need more clinical and regulatory testing, as well as the approval of regulatory organizations such as Health Canada, the FDA, and the EU.

Clinical Validations have been performed in Canada to test usability of device and that it functions. The commercial testing and FDA Approval are to come and then after testing to prove the clinical and economic value of their device.

In terms of taking a new approach to medical technology as a startup, quality approval for risk management is incorporated into every part of their product design and production. In addition, MYOVUE uses specialized paperless software in their production, a high energy and cost saving technique most long standing medical companies haven’t been able to do.

Their team also participated in the McGill Dobson Cup and won a prize in the Health Sciences Track.

Competitive Landscape

The only other competitor is Stryker – a highly inaccurate device to use in ACS diagnosis. Stryker is a fluid filled syringe that is injected into the injury site to check the diffusion rate. However, it gives different pressure readings based on a long list of factors such as: speed of injection, angle, location, etc., it also is mostly used after doctors already think that patients have ACS.

MYOVUE is more efficient and effective at screening for ACS. While it is also more expensive continuous measurement is far more effective compared to doing multiple injections at different times like Stryker, and the financial cost of purchasing MYOVUE is lowering the opportunity cost of misdiagnosis leading to amputation.


What is the market outlook?

Stryker has essentially a monopoly on ACS but they only act as a confirmation tool; MYOVUE wants to act as a screening device to prevent late diagnosis. Its results have proven economically successful in the lab resulting in: 40% reduction in measurement error, 40% reduction in operating room time, and a 60% reduction in ACS Related Costs. As an early screening device, it will also save on long-term costs associated with lawsuits that occur in misdiagnosis of ACS.



Due to the success and necessity of MYOVUE, institutions are coming on for the support of this program. Yet they’re not quite ready to hit the market soon, the hardest part they said is getting investments before your product becomes market ready. Most Investors only want to buy in when the development stage is over, but by attending conferences and tech fairs, you open your product to investment.

MYOVUE to Other Medical Start Ups

MYOVUE is an innovation that was created in a field that was lacking a specific device for a specific demand. In order for to create a well-defined product you must identify a need that isn’t well serviced in the medical market.

Likewise through the process of a medical startup, it is important to have plans for how you will test, regulate, quality control, and then market your device. In addition, networking, researching, and inquiring key leaders’ opinions in one’s product will spread the success of your device.

Interested in the stories of other successful medical startups out of McGill? Take your pick:

The post Recap: The Science of Medical Startups appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

1 week left to apply for New York’s ERA Tech Accelerator 2018! 

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 12:44

There is only one week left to apply for the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA) Winter 2018 cohort, New York City’s leading tech accelerator!

Apply Today

ERA is accepting applications for its Winter 2018 NYC Accelerator Program. The deadline to apply is November 6, 2017.

ERA invests USD $100K in seed funding and gives entrepreneurs access to NYC’s leading mentor network and community, including exposure to 350+ industry leaders.

They work with companies intensively throughout their 4 month program, and continue to support them all the way through an exit. Since 2011, ERA Alumni have raised USD $250M and grown to more than USD $1.3B in combined valuation.

Thanks to @ERoundtable for hosting @DobsonCentre @DesautelsMcGill in #NYC! One week left to apply for W18 program!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 30, 2017

Early Admissions – October 12, 2017

Deadline: November 6, 2017

Program Start: January 8, 2018

* Open Office hours @ ERA

Notable McGill startup, MacroMeasures, previously went through the ERA accelerator program.

Get gender, interests, language of any valid #Twitter or #Instagram user via @macromeasures #API

— ProgrammableWeb (@programmableweb) April 25, 2017

Apply Today

The post 1 week left to apply for New York’s ERA Tech Accelerator 2018!  appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.

One week left to apply for the ERA Accelerator Program in New York City

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 14:33

There is only one week left to apply for the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA) Winter 2018 cohort, New York City’s leading tech accelerator!

Apply Today

ERA is accepting applications for its Winter 2018 NYC Accelerator Program. The deadline to apply is November 6, 2017.

ERA invests USD $100K in seed funding and gives entrepreneurs access to NYC’s leading mentor network and community, including exposure to 350+ industry leaders.

They work with companies intensively throughout their 4 month program, and continue to support them all the way through an exit. Since 2011, ERA Alumni have raised USD $250M and grown to more than USD $1.3B in combined valuation.

Thanks to @ERoundtable for hosting @DobsonCentre @DesautelsMcGill in #NYC! One week left to apply for W18 program!

— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) October 30, 2017

Early Admissions – October 12, 2017

Deadline: November 6, 2017

Program Start: January 8, 2018

* Open Office hours @ ERA

Notable McGill startup, MacroMeasures, previously went through the ERA accelerator program.

Get gender, interests, language of any valid #Twitter or #Instagram user via @macromeasures #API

— ProgrammableWeb (@programmableweb) April 25, 2017

Apply Today

The post One week left to apply for the ERA Accelerator Program in New York City appeared first on The McGill Dobson Chronicles.