On Thursday, April 21, 2016, there was tremendous energy at the 14th annual TEC VenturePrize Awards.
Hosted by TEC Edmonton, the awards evening celebrates, recognizes and encourages innovative, made-in-Alberta early-stage companies.
This year’s TEC VenturePrize Awards represents Alberta’s ever-maturing innovation “ecosystem” to which all the players – entrepreneurs, investors, inventors, volunteers, funders, governments, private companies, public companies, non-government organizations – are now passionately committed.
As illustrated by this year’s VenturePrize Awards, 2016 will be seen in retrospect as a pivotal year: the year that Alberta embraced and accelerated the growth of a major high-tech business sector that will help the province lessen its dependence on the roller-coaster price of oil and natural gas.
Speaking at VenturePrize, Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous outlined an impressive number of initiatives launched by the provincial government to support the growth of innovative new companies – business incubator support, incentives, investment tax credits, tax cuts and changes in the government’s delivery of business innovation services.
Major corporations are stepping up to the Alberta innovation plate with 21 organizations played lead roles in prize category sponsorships and corporate mentorships at this year’s VenturePrize event.
As TEC Edmonton CEO, Chris Lumb, pointed out, 110 expert volunteers returned this year to assist with the judging and mentoring of all VenturePrize competitors.
The show of support was a catalyst to those who truly count at VenturePrize: the young companies competing in the four main VenturePrize business award categories. These include the flagship Fast Growth prize, the TELUS ICT (Information and Communications Technology) competition stream, the DynaLIFE Dx Health competition and the Alberta Innovates Student Business Plan competition.
The quality of this year’s finalists in each competition was an early outcome of the new emphasis being placed on innovation and diversification in Alberta. The four winning companies are not only among Canada’s most promising early-stage companies, but have technologies applicable to markets around the world.
Fast Growth winner Dakota Supplies of Calgary (www.dakotasupplies.com) found an untapped market in innovative new cleaning tools and supplies for passenger aircraft interiors. Its products are now being field-tested by a major Canadian airline.
University of Alberta medical spin-off MagnetTx Oncology Solutions (www.magnettx.com), winner of the VenturePrize DynaLIFE Dx Health prize, took away the audience’s collective breath as it unspooled revolutionary new technology vastly improving cancer radiation treatment precision. So much so, as Master of Ceremonies Shaye Ganam of Global Edmonton said, that today’s 40 radiation treatments could be accomplished in just “one, two or five treatment sessions” using the Magnet Tx Aurora-RT device.
In the fashion sphere, TELUS ICT Prize winner Covet (www.covet.tv) TV will bring a new revenue stream to TV or video-streaming shows. Working with costume designers, fashion labels and TV shows, Covet’s consumer technology makes it possible for the fashion-conscious consumer to buy designer clothes or fashion accessories worn by actors in shows, right from the screen. TELUS will be working with Covet to test its technology on TELUS’ Optik TV system.
Alberta Innovates Student Business Plan winner Alexander Villeneuve and his company Ceres Solutions Ltd. (www.ceres-ab.ca) impressed all present, not only with a creative and practical solution to finding new uses for what was waste, but to be do so at the tender age of 20. The Olds College student has found a new use for “spent” grain used in brewing beer. The biomass is biologically enhanced by growing mushrooms on (and in) it, creating both a mushroom crop and revitalized biomass with new nutritional, fertilizer and soil conditioner value. Villeneuve is the second student in a row from the Olds College Brewmaster program to win the VenturePrize Student Award.
Winning the Edmonton Journal People’s Choice Award – collecting the most online votes – was Fast Growth category runner-up Localintel (www.localintel.com), a data-integrating solution to help small businesses across Alberta find the best possible location to set up shop.
Recognized at VenturePrize was 14-year-old Gr. 8 Sexsmith student Travis Cunnington, winner of the Peace Country Region Science Fair. Convinced by his research that cell-phone radiation is indeed a reality, Travis made a prototype cell-phone case from radiation-blocking materials that reduced radiation from the cell phone by 70%.
City of Edmonton Councillor Michael Walters had participated as a member of the judging panel adjudicating the DynaLIFE Dx Health prize. “As a judge, I was able to see the process, and the mind-blowing quality and creativity of all the finalists,” he said.
“Tonight, the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts is being held over at city hall. But it needs to be stated that just as much creativity is in this room tonight. The City of Edmonton is very proud to partner with other organizations in supporting TEC Edmonton and VenturePrize. We need never question the funds providing for the dividend that TEC Edmonton provides. In this city, we are always more than we appear.”
WINNERS AND RUNNERS-UP, 2016 TEC VENTUREPRIZE BUSINESS COMPETITION
Fast Growth Award – $80,000 in cash and services to the winner, $10,000 to each runner-up
Winner: Dakota Supplies Ltd.
Runners-up: Fitset, Localintel
TELUS ICT Competition Award – $30,000 to the winner
Runners-up: Rentzrey, instaMek
DynaLIFE Dx Health Competition Award – $25,000 to the winner, $10,000 to first runner-up
Winner: MagnetTx Oncology Solutions
Runners-up: Running Injury Clinic Inc., SolAeroMed Inc.
Alberta Innovates Student Business Plan Award – $20,000 to the winner, $7,500 to each runner-up
Winner: Ceres Solutions Ltd.
Runners-up: Services on the Go – Chic, Zacxon Inc.
Edmonton Journal People’s Choice Award