TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 27, 2013) - Five socially-innovative companies formed by students at University of Toronto, Ryerson University and Humber College are among 10 finalists vying for a $20,000 prize in Ontario Centres of Excellence's Social Enterprise Student Competition.
"This group of finalists is evidence that Ontario's next generation of entrepreneurs are looking beyond traditional business models to create companies that benefit people and places in different ways," said OCE president and CEO Dr. Tom Corr.
The finalists (a combination of individual and group efforts) were selected from more than 40 entries and represent a wide range of socially-innovative products and services. Four of the finalists will win $20,000 each to help further develop their social enterprise.
"These young entrepreneurs are showing their commitment to finding innovative solutions to some of the more pressing issues facing Ontarians today," said Reza Moridi, Ontario's Minister of Research and Innovation.
In the first round of the two-round contest, entrants - students and recent graduates (no more than three years past graduation) from publicly-funded Ontario colleges and universities - had to submit a business concept with a social mission in the form of a three-minute video uploaded to YouTube.
The 10 finalists chosen by an internal review panel will now be paired with an OCE business mentor to create a business plan which will be pitched to an expert panel of judges in Toronto on March 21. At that event, the top four ideas will be awarded $20,000 each in order to assist in the further development of their social enterprise.
"The quality of the entries meant our review panel had some tough decisions to make when it came to narrowing the field," said Denise Brennan, Manager of OCE's Social Innovation Program. "In the end we came up with a group of finalists who collectively capture the spirit of this contest."
This is the second year for the competition. Last year, in a slightly different format, University of Toronto Civil Engineering PhD candidate Heather Wray took the top prize of $25,000 for her business Rooftop Gardens Inc. The burgeoning start-up strives to transform unused spaces into centres of urban food production. The company develops, sells, and installs modular and customizable gardens to enable vegetable production year-round in urban areas.
This year's finalists are:
Ryan Doherty, Audrey Kuo and Sherry Lynn-Lee, University of Toronto
iamsick.ca is a web/mobile online service that aims to improve the patient experience and incentivize healthcare efficiency by helping people find the nearest open healthcare provider and the estimated wait-times at each location. This allows for better planning of visits.
Alon Eisenstein, University of Toronto
With: Calvin Cheng, Nari Kim, Neta Raz
Pueblo Science aims to provide school-aged children in Toronto with high-quality, hands-on science and leadership learning extracurricular activities, such as after-school clubs and camps, provided to all children regardless of their parents' financial capabilities.
Twenty One Toys
Shelley Vaisberg, University of Toronto
With: Ilana Ben-Ari, Gonzalo Riva
Twenty One Toys creates toys and workshops that bring 21st-century skills and thinking into the classroom, the boardroom and wherever else change needs a hand. We are creating a new category of toys that teach such skills as creativity, collaborative learning, innovation and problem solving. We also develop and deliver workshops to immerse groups in the lessons of our toys.
Jake Harding and Gustavo Macias, Humber College
Skyline Farms is a portable, scalable urban farming model that produces, distributes and donates all within the borders of a given community. Skyline uses hydroponics to grow fresh, nutritious produce on under-utilized urban rooftops. By using no fuel consumption or refrigeration to transport our crops, it is our mission to re-define the phrase 'locally grown'.
Zacharie Weingarten, Ryerson University
With: Damian Matheson, Lee Robertson
FoodStory brings local food producers and local food evangelists together to build a better food system. We're creating an online farmer's market where food is celebrated. We leverage the social power of the web to enable our partners to better connect with local food culture and reap its many benefits.
Emily Peat, University of Waterloo
EcoPlace Organics supports local certified organic farms by improving local food distribution networks. The business was created by 21-year-old Emily Peat from London, Ontario, a 4th year civil engineering student at the University of Waterloo. EcoPlace Organics is building a grocery store on wheels to sell local organic foods to a niche market of young families.
Hamoon Ekhtiari, University of Waterloo
With: Sam Saad, Richard Steiner, Chris Barry
JustAccess is a crowdfunding website to the justice system. We are looking to increase access to justice while offering new opportunities for civic engagement and social empowerment by facilitating crowdfunding to legal cases. All people should have equal access to justice -- JustAccess enables you to help make this a reality.
Jonathan Koff, University of Waterloo
With: Nicolas Koff, Marisa Bernstein, Tyler Freedman, Ghazal Badiozamani
Projexity is an online platform that aims to democratize urban change by enabling individuals and organizations to gather funding, expertise, design work and approvals for innovative urban projects. Together, we can make our cities better places.
Waterloo Banking Project
Helena Hua Cao, University of Waterloo
With: Ryan Chen-Wing, Sally Lee, Vinson Fong, Jerry Liu
The Waterloo Banking Project is creating the first student-focused financial services in Canada to help university students graduate with more money, less debt and better financial skills. With support from universities and institutional partners, our trained student staff will provide retail banking services, budget planning and financial education.
Treata Smart Caregiver
Ashkan Sattari, McMaster University
With: Neda Abedi Sohrofrouzani, Meharn Najafi, Ali Shariat, Reza Pournaghi
Treata Smart Caregiver is going to address the significant needs for individuals with memory problems and their caregivers. It helps the caregiver to provide 24-hour care for their loved ones while providing them with peace of mind.
About Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc. (www.oce-ontario.org)
Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc. drives the commercialization of cutting-edge research across key market sectors to build the economy of tomorrow and secure Ontario's global competitiveness. In doing this, OCE fosters the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and is a key partner with Ontario's industry, universities, colleges, research hospitals, investors and governments. A champion of leading-edge technologies, best practices and research, Ontario Centres of Excellence invests in sectors such as advanced health, digital media and information communications, advanced manufacturing and materials, and cleantech including energy, environment and water. OCE is a key partner in delivering Ontario's Innovation Agenda as a member of the province's Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE). Funded by the Government of Ontario, the ONE is made up of regional and sector-focused organizations and helps Ontario-based entrepreneurs rapidly grow their company and create jobs. For more information visit www.oneinnovation.ca.