This week, on Thursday, April 21, 2016, 12 early-stage Alberta companies will compete in four TEC VenturePrize business plan award catagories, in the Fast Growth, TELUS ICT, DynaLIFE Dx Health and Alberta Innovates Student categories.

All 12 will have benefited from the mentoring, educational and networking components of VenturePrize.

Four will walk out with cash and in-kind prizes. Four winners will garner greatly enhanced reputations. Alberta’s business and innovation communities pay close attention to TEC VenturePrize, recognizing  these are the companies most likely to diversify Alberta’s economy as they grow.

VenturePrize’s credibility rests not only on what is to come, but what has happened to past winners. The awards were originally created by the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation 14 years ago.

Here’s a look at what has since happened to the winners of the 2015 VenturePrize Fast Growth, TELUS ICT and Alberta Innovates Student awards.

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Sensassure – Re-imaging Incontinence Care for Seniors
(Winner of the 2015 VenturePrize Fast Growth Award)

The year has been one big blur for recent University of Alberta graduate and Senassure CEO Sameer Dhar.

Sameer and his team developed an attachable sensor that detects moisture in incontinence briefs, mostly used by seniors in extended care homes.

With wireless connectivity, the moisture sensor could make life much easier for both resident seniors and their care-givers.  A solution that can detect which actual briefs need changing will considerably lighten the care-giver work loads. Users can sleep without constant interruption.

Since winning the 2015 Fast Growth VenturePrize award, Dhar and his seven-person team have been living in nursing homes in Maryland, San Francisco and Paris, Ontario – working with staff and clients around the clock to test and improve Sensassure’s moisture-sensing technology and information system.

Such dedication is now paying off.  Sensassure was one of nine companies accepted in the Bay Area’s Hardware Accelerator Highway #1 program – Highway #1 being the Harvard University of hardware startups.

Sensassure is now working with a leading industrial design firm in Silicon Valley on the final tweaking of its ground-breaking incontinence detection systems.

Revera, one of Canada’s leading extended care providers, has placed a major order for Senassure incontinence sensing devices, even though commercial production is not anticipated before the second quarter of 2017.

Senassure’s latest round of seed funding, to raise $1 million Can., is doing very well.

VenturePrize, says Sameer, gave Senassure credibility. “I was talking to one of our earliest investors,” says Sameer. He said ‘When Sensassure won the TEC Venture Prize, I believe that was a testament to the real progress made and potential behind the product’.”

 

OMx Inc. – Databases for Scientists and Developers
(Winner of the 2015 VenturePrize TELUS ICT Award)

Rarely has an early stage company like OMx Inc. pivoted so neatly and quickly.

OMx won the TELUS ICT VenturePrize Award as a remote medical check-up service, using the growing health science of metabolomics to analyse clients’ health through urine analysis.  After winning the TELUS ICT VenturePrize, the OMx team concluded certain quality control issues were, at least for now, beyond its capabilities.

OMx had been using an elaborate pharmaceutical databank developed by the University of Alberta’s world-leading metabolomics researcher Dr. David Wishart.

OMx CEO Mike Wilson suggested that Dr. Wishart and the University of Alberta license the medical data processing, gathering and integration database to OMx for commercialization.

Today, OMx’s Drug Bank database is being used by medical researchers and health professionals the world over. The database processes, gathers and integrates enormous amounts of medical research pertaining to drugs and how they work in the body, diseases, interaction of proteins and genes and more uses.  Drug Bank already has been referenced in some 3,000 medical journals.

With 10 employees, OMx has now moved off the University of Alberta campus and into its own quarters at Startup Edmonton. From Drug Bank revenues, OMx is exploring other uses of its magnificent and always updated medical database.

 

Alberta Craft Malting – Producing Specialty Malts for Alberta Brewers
(Winner of the 2015 VenturePrize Alberta Innovates Student Award)

Tyler Rose and his partner Peter Schill haven’t done too much with Alberta Craft Malting in the past year. After all, both have been in their final year of studies at the Olds College brewery operations management program, hopefully graduating this spring.

The VenturePrize judges were intrigued by the niche in the brewery supply business that Alberta Craft Malting had identified as its potential market. Craft breweries are flourishing in Alberta, but all are buying the same basic malting barley from one or two big companies.

Why not, the student duo ventured, contract the growing of specialized barleys that could be processed in different ways, thus offering craft brewers a range of new beer possibilities?

“We are doing market research to see what the demand is for custom-made malting barley, how we can contract with farmers to grow specialized barley in small quantities,” says Rose. “We’ve also been malting batches of barley here at Olds College, to see how we can ramp up when the time comes.”

If the market analysis is positive, Alberta Craft Malting has investors waiting in the wings. “Certainly we believe there’s potential for a craft malting operation in the province. A specialty malt house in B.C. is doing very well. Once we’ve done the homework, we’ll be up and running,” says Rose. “We’d like to have our first batches ready for sale in one year’s time.”

So the 2015 VenturePrize winners are going strong, creating and growing knowledge-based economic activity within the province.

Good luck, and similar results, to the VenturePrize Class of 2016!