Last summer, the student start-up RockMass Technologies took home a grand prize of $30,000 from the Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI) Venture Pitch Competition. Over one year after their victory, the team has travelled to Shenzhen to further develop their business.
According to their website, RockMass provides “a data collection tool for geologists to measure structural information, strike and dip measurements, of exposed rock faces more efficiently, accurately, and safely.”
The tool — which is compact, durable and easy to use — gives users real-time measurements to help analyze and assess the structural stability of a mine. According to RockMass Chief Operating Officer Matt Gubasta, ArtSci ’17, the team plans to eventually offer a range of products to equip the mining industry with “a fully mechanized structural mapping system that efficiently and exclusively maps geological features.”
Since they won last summer, Gubasta said the team has mainly been focusing on product development.
“Since the summer program finished, our goals have been […] getting a working product into the hands of users,” Gubasta told The Journal.
Currently, the team is engaged at the HAX accelerator program in Shenzhen, China. HAX works with entrepreneurs to help start their hardware venture from scratch by finalizing product prototypes and scaling companies in terms of manufacturing.
According to Gubasta, HAX essentially helped RockMass “take a working product and turn into a finished manufactured product.”
“We’re learning how to interact with distributors and parts manufacturers, how to place a manufacturing order — things you can’t really learn in school,” he continued.
In Shenzhen, the team works with advisors who provide product feedback and advice on how to develop their company. The program operates in Shenzhen for 111 days, following which the team will prepare for a showcase in San Francisco in an effort to attract potential investors.
In addition to the HAX program, RockMass has been nominated by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) for the Martin Walmsley Award for Entrepreneurship. According to Business Insider, the Martin Walmsley Award “supports the development of an Ontario student to create an innovative start-up with an economic impact in Ontario.”
“The greatest thing about being nominated for that award in the first place is that the nominations have to come from within the Ontario Centre for Excellence, which means our own representatives at OCE actually had to put us forward,” Gubasta said. “I think it’s a great show of confidence from OCE in our abilities and our future.”
Gubasta said he and the rest of the RockMass team — which consists of all Queen’s students — remain grateful for their relationship with the University.
“Its been an amazing journey for us [and] we’re really proud of everything that Queen’s has been able to give us so far,” he said. “We also want to be able to give back to Queen’s later on by encouraging other students to go through that same process.”
The RockMass team has learned a great deal from starting their own company and Gubasta encourages young entrepreneurs to embrace the learning experience.
“Start early and enjoy the educational experience behind it,” he said. “One of the greatest things about being a young entrepreneur is you can acknowledge that you don’t know everything and that’s okay. It’s a lot better to lean on those who have done it and the industry experts, and really take their advice along with your own gut intuition.”
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