With over $100,000 in seed funding on the line, eight student entrepreneur teams and four regional ventures fought for their businesses at the Isabel Bader Centre last week.
Founded in 2012, the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) is a pan-university initiative that works to support student entrepreneurship. Each summer, the DDQIC hosts a 17 week internship known as the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI). Open to students from all programs and years, QICSI turns brainstorm ideas into original business ventures.
Once their ideas are established and agreed upon, groups are provided with a set salary, a certain amount of seed funding money, resources and the chance to win up to $30,000 at the end of summer pitch competition.
On August 16, 12 different teams gathered in the Isabel Bader Centre for the 2017 Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition. With only eight minutes to sell their idea, a panel of judges and guests watched as Fitra Technologies, a venture to retrofit local gym facilities with sensor technology, won the top prize of $30,000.
Made up of students Blair Halenda Sci ’18, Sam Milner Sci ’17, Jennie Teng ArtSci ’17, Jared Westreich Sci ’17 and Victor Mimo Sci ’17, Fitra provides both feedback and personalized fitness plans to gym users.
This is how Fitra would be retrofitted onto local gym facilities with their sensor technology to track workouts. Supplied photo
Despite their early success, the idea to innovate fitness tracking technology wasn’t the initial objective of the team of five.
“We weren’t ever set on the idea straight from the beginning, it was just another idea that came up during the ideation stage,” Teng explained. “But then when we went out talking to gym managers, it started to really come through that there was a need for this.”
According to the team, Fitra is beneficial for both the gym facility and the consumer. By having the Fitra app, gym users are able to easily record their workouts and gain motivation toward their fitness goals. For facility managers, Halenda said the advantage lies in the sensors connected to the strength machines as they collect tracking data that provides insight to the rate and frequency of equipment use.
“There are so many ‘track my run’ apps and such but not a lot has been done in the strength training department so we decided there was an awesome opportunity there,” Halenda said. “We also did a survey at the Queen’s Athletics Centre so we were able to interact with so many people that go to the gym and they all loved the idea.”
With access to office space, physical prototyping, design facilities and guidance from mentors over the summer, the months of hard work came down to the final pitch competition.
“You’re basically working on this one idea for four months and then all of a sudden you have eight minutes to convey it to an audience,” Halenda laughed. “It was definitely nerve racking but a transformative experience.”
After making their pitch to the panel, Halenda and Teng recalled waiting in anticipation for around an hour before the judges revealed the results. After hearing their name announced as recipients of the top prize, the team members said they “couldn’t even explain how they felt.”
“I think I was stunned for around two hours after we were told and I had people making fun of how shocked I looked,” Teng said. “To hear our name announced was just such a cool experience.”
“I was so happy that I didn’t have to judge it myself – there were so many good presentations,” Halenda said. “We can’t explain how blessed and how fortunate we feel to be awarded top prize.”
With plans to collaborate with the Kingston YMCA and the Queen’s ARC, Fitra is hoping to develop their product to benefit the Kingston and Queen’s community.
The other winners include Spectra Plasmonics, Dream Again, and Your Mobility Innovations, who each took home $15,000 in seed funding, while TimberWolf Cycles, Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth, Whisk and Ozira Foods were awarded $10,000 each.
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