ClimaCube wins big at Dunin-Deshpande

Queen’s students take home $30,000 grand prize

ClimaCube Founders.
Credit: 
Dunin-Deshpande

Student-run start-up ClimaCube won $30,000 in seed funding at the annual Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition, hosted at the Isabel Bader Centre on Aug. 23. 

More than 700 viewers from over ten countries watched a live-stream of the event, which was judged by Peter Becke, David Lloyd, Raj Melville and Allison Turner. 

Karina Bland, Sci ’18, and James Hantho, Comm ’19, pitched ClimaCube to the four judges, which Turner said had a “strong business model” and could “make the world a better place.”

ClimaCube is aimed at developing portable cold storage units to extend the quality of products while in transit—like samples and vaccinations.

In an interview, Bland and Hantho told The Journal ClimaCube is a “solution that can last.” 

The team hopes their product will protect vaccinations during long journeys in developing countries where local communities can walk days to receive healthcare.

“If you deliver a vaccine that spoils, kids will get sick and die from it,” Bland said, adding ClimaCube will “hopefully impact people’s lives.” 

The pair had previously competed in similar pitch competitions, including Western University’s World’s Challenge, without success. 

“It’s so surreal because we’ve been in the exact same position and it’s gone the exact opposite way,” Hantho told The Journal. “We’re over the moon.”

Fifteen of the 20 competing ventures—which ranged from card games, to drones, to education software—spent the summer preparing their pitches as part of the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative. 

Previously, the program was exclusive to ventures from Queen’s students, but after a expansion of the competition, five of the 20 ventures were from the Kingston community. 

Emulgreen, a venture that aims to improve sustainability in the chemical industry by using natural resources to create emulsifiers, received the second place prize of $15,000. 

Prizes of $10,000 were awarded to five more teams, including InField ID—a venture aimed at helping farmers identify and treat invasive species and Illumirate—which looks to provide sustainable oxygen systems to premature infants born in developing countries.

Other recognized pitches were MIR Technologies, which created a drone capable of conducting inspections from high altitudes, Child Cancer Survivor Canada, a not-for-profit which supports childhood cancer survivors, and Durabyte, a venture aimed at increasing the durability of flash storage chips. 

Durabyte also received $5,000 for winning the first ever Wisdom of the Market Award, where audience members and online stream viewers voted for their favourite teams using Twitter hashtags. 

A second Wisdom of the Market Award was given to Firefi Rewards, a start-up aimed at changing loyalty rewards programs for small businesses. 

Hoping to attract further economic innovation from the pitch competition, the City of Kingston supported the event and Mayor Bryan Paterson briefly attended to encourage the entrepreneurs. 

Paterson told attendees that the city was ready for fresh start-ups.

“There is always room in our community for a new idea,” he said. 

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