By Susan Hickman
When it comes to organizing meals, Mathieu Jobin was at a loss. Keen as he is about fitness and a regular at the gym, Jobin simply couldn’t commit to calculating grams of protein or the number of calories in what he eats.
But what if he could develop a program that would do that for him?
This initial spark of an idea catapulted Jobin and two fellow University of Ottawa students, Ned Nadima (an entrepreneurship graduate) and Cyril Moukarzel (a marketing grad), into the world of business.
The three designed a social platform called eCelery that connects food lovers around the world to create, share and discover new recipes. Their proposal was one of 13 assessed by three Lead to Win Opportunity Review Boards and one of only two to earn a “GREEN” rating on Feb. 12. A GREEN rating from the Lead to Win program is the gold standard for young entrepreneurs.
An opportunity championed by Cedric Eveleigh and Francis Lefebvre, also from the University of Ottawa, was the second project rated GREEN. Eveleigh is the CEO of Enplex, which has developed an innovative solution that enables people to network without having to worry about contact information or business cards.
Entrepreneurial reviews are ongoing events at Carleton, with some 150 teams annually pitching ideas to experienced serial entrepreneurs and others involved in business development.
“On average, one in 10 opportunities is rated GREEN. Today was a good day; two of 13 opportunities assessed were rated GREEN,” explained Tony Bailetti, director of Carleton’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) program. “Venture teams comprised of students from the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College and the community at large regularly pitch their opportunities to the Lead to Win Opportunity Review Boards. When you have a community of entrepreneurs, the level of engagement goes up. Today’s event is part of a big machine and it’s the first time we have a physical home for young entrepreneurs here at the St. Patrick’s Building.”
A GREEN rating, explained Lead to Win manager Ludovico Prattico, means presenters know their businesses have everything they need to succeed. The rating provides venture teams with a new level of service from the Lead to Win ecosystem that has supported technology entrepreneurs since 2002.
On hearing the positive news, eCelery co-founder Moukarzel said: “The whole team literally jumped and we started hugging each other. We are just so excited to work with Lead to Win and to create a high growth and successful business that can create jobs in Ottawa.”
The reviewers, Moukarzel added, “gave us great feedback that we will use to constantly improve. The excitement was definitely beyond words.”
“At Carleton we strive for innovation in research, teaching and learning in entrepreneurship; we develop connections worldwide that support technology startups that wish to globalize rapidly and early; we encourage hands-on experience in entrepreneurship; and we offer exceptional support to student entrepreneurs,” said Jerry Tomberlin, dean of the Sprott School of Business. “Congratulations to all individuals and organizations that contribute to the Lead to Win ecosystem year after year! Today’s event illustrates the results that are achievable from bringing together entrepreneurs from all post-secondary institutions, entrepreneurs from the community and opportunity reviewers that represent every important sector that makes our regional economy strong.”
Said Martin Croteau, director of Academic Entrepreneurship at the Ontario Centres of Excellence: “Lead to Win and the newly launched Carleton-led Accelerator are part of a growing network of campus accelerators that are making academic institutions the focal point for youth entrepreneurship in Ontario. I was delighted to meet so many young entrepreneurs today and expect to return as an opportunity reviewer in the near future.”
David Mohajer, who founded a company he calls XAHIVE, is developing a communications solution to allow clients to connect with colleagues securely and privately.
“A couple of years ago, I was driving down Hunt Club Road when I noticed the tail light of the car in front of me was out and I thought: ‘How can I tell them about the light and remain anonymous?’”
Mohajer, who quit his day job to join Carleton’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) program, patented a proximity communication application that doesn’t require an identity. Since then, he has approached potential clients and refined the prototype.
“Basically,” said Mohajer, “I didn’t tighten up my presentation enough. I missed out on explaining the financials and didn’t start with the value proposition. But I will present again.”
Sprott faculty members Steven Muegge and Mika Westerlund said they see a massive improvement in presentations by young entrepreneurs. “The Lead to Win program increases the likelihood of success of technology entrepreneurs. It’s a tough process and is well worth it if you stick to it,” said Muegge.
Other reviewers spoke about the great concepts and the passion and energy they witnessed at the entrepreneurial opportunities event.
“The calibre was the best I’ve seen in a long time,” said business owner and founder of Epic Promo, Sheri Boyd. She has been actively engaged with Lead to Win for many years.