Forgive the TEC Edmonton personnel in the audience Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at the Edmonton Journal Capital Ideas “How do I turn my idea into a business” forum.
Forgive them if they looked like proud parents at their kid’s graduation. The three featured panelists, Joel Wegner of Menutria (formerly MyMenu), Meghan Dear of Localize and Deepak Gupta of LoginRadius are all founders of companies nurtured and publicized through TEC Edmonton’s Alberta-wide VenturePrize business competition.
Menutria won the TELUS ICT Prize at the 2014 VenturePrize, designed to recognize and assist technology-based startup companies in Alberta. Meghan’s Localize won VenturePrize’s 2014 Fast Growth Prize. LoginRadius was runner-up in the 2013 Fast Growth Competition.
The three business founders now had a chance to give back, to share their suggestions for turning ideas into businesses with an enthusiastic audience of some 150 entrepreneurially-minded Edmontonians.
All three businesses were born out of frustration. Menutria’s co-founder Kelsie Kozakevich always had difficulty finding restaurants, and knowledgeable servers, able to accommodate her severe egg allergy.When Meghan Dear went shopping, she wanted to know much more about what she was buying than the price per pound. She wanted to know more about where the product was grown, processed, its nutritional information, if she was supporting local growers. And of course few grocery clerks would have a clue.

Deepak Gupta was frustrated by a problem we all know too well – password overload.

Out of frustration came solutions. Why not an app, said Kelsie’s business partner and business school student Joel Wegner, that could customize a restaurant menu to dietary restrictions?

Why not a skew label by the apples in a grocery store, thought Meghan, that could give your smartphone information about where and by whom those apples were grown?

Why not sign in to a website, Deepak thought, by using other social media accounts, like Facebook?

Each business took advantage of TEC Edmonton and the city’s fast evolving innovation support ecosystem to learn more about business and develop their business models. The Edmonton Journal’s Capital Ideas, for instance, has become another vital piece of the innovation ecosystem, providing a robust forum for the industrious dreamers who are forming a dynamic group of entrepreneurs.

Menutria is one of the first businesses to emerge from the University of Alberta’s eHUB, a new student/staff/alumni entrepreneurship incubator with ties to TEC Edmonton. Through eHUB he learned about a new prize category at VenturePrize, the ICT stream sponsored by TELUS.

Meghan started as a raw rookie with no business experience. Being adventurous, she first entered Localize in the 2014 VenturePrize competition, where the educational component of the contest did her a world of good. “The judges blew my idea apart, which was a really good thing. It was initially devastating, but I was able to get a good picture of where Localize was at. I learned how much I didn’t know.”

When Localize re-entered VenturePrize for this spring’s competition, the experience and the ongoing education side of VenturePrize (business mentoring, business planning) put Meghan and Localize over the top.

Login Radius has had a long and illustrious relationship with TEC Edmonton and other partners in the regional innovation ecosystem.

Originally incubated at Startup Edmonton, Login Radius moved into offices at the TEC Edmonton TEC Centre in downtown Edmonton. Deepak and company have worked closely with TEC Edmonton business advisor and Executive-in-Residence Shaheel Hooda. Angel investment has come via the TEC Venture Angels investor group.

“VenturePrize helped LoginRadius identify loopholes in our business,” says Deepak, “where we needed to improve. And TEC has been very helpful bringing us to investors.”

The two takeaways that best resonated with the audience were that great business ideas can often arrive from problems or annoyances and getting early validation or positive feedback for an idea is a powerful affirmation of the business potential of the idea.

For the TEC Edmontonians, seeing these three young and promising business founders offering advice and encouragement to other early-stage entrepreneurs was more than enough “validation” .

It’s a warm and fuzzy validation, to know TEC Edmonton’s programs and people truly make a difference for the ambitious but often inexperienced entrepreneurs we serve.

Visit the Capital Ideas website for the schedule of their upcoming events, where Edmonton’s entrepreneurs share what they know.