U of T Sustainability Innovation Prize showcases 10 standout projects

On June 12, U of T Entrepreneurship hosted the 10 finalists of its inaugural Sustainability Innovation Prize for a pitch competition at ONRamp, a co-working space that supports U of T accelerators. The finalists, selected from a larger pool of applicants, each had three minutes to pitch their innovations to a panel of expert judges in the hopes of being selected as one of the three $5,000 prize winners.

The 10 finalists were chosen according to the opportunity, viability and impact, growth potential, innovation, talent, and communication skills demonstrated in their proposals. In April, each of the finalists was encouraged by U of T Entrepreneurship to work with an advisor to prepare them for the big day.

Following the 10 pitches, which ranged from energy efficiency innovations to financial services, the judges announced their verdict.

Daniel McKee and Lisa Pooley’s Circular Toys; John Russell and Leanna Smid’s SoluSave; and Paulina Szalchta, Samantha Dilorio, and Tom Chen’s STP Sports claimed top honours, each earning $5,000 to be used to support their innovations.

How Wattpad’s Allen Lau, a U of T alumnus, is taking on Hollywood

Wattpad, a tech company founded by University of Toronto alumni Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen, is taking a data-driven approach to finding the next big thing in film, TV and book publishing.

The Toronto-based startup has become a huge success since it was founded in 2006 as a social networking site for writers and readers of fiction.

The latest issue of the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine  tells the story of the Canadian tech company, detailing its early days to its recent rapid expansion. That includes its latest milestone: a Hollywood film based on a story first published on the Wattpad platform.

U of T researcher develops smartphone app to combat memory loss

Cognitive neuroscience researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a smartphone-based app to assist those suffering from memory loss, including those with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

CTV News spotlighted the “HippoCamera” in an interview with Morgan Barense, a faculty member in the department of psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science.

“The HippoCamera is a smartphone-based app that is designed to mimic the function of the Hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that we know is damaged in Alzheimer’s disease,” Barense told CTV.

BenchSci’s total funding reaches $27 million as Gradient ups investment

Toronto-based BenchSci, an AI biomedical startup, has raised approximately $6.7 million CAD in financing, bringing its total funding to $27 million CAD ($20 million USD).

The round was led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund. BenchSci said this round is an extension of its Series A round, the first portion of which ($10 million) was closed in May 2018 with participation from Gradient. BenchSci, which has created a search engine to help researchers find antibody usage data, said it will use the new investment to expand its office and team to better serve pharmaceutical companies looking to use its biomedical technology.

Toronto startup Xanadu raises $32-million to help build ‘world’s most powerful computer’

A Toronto startup aiming to build the world’s most powerful computer by harnessing the quantum properties of light has raised $32-million from leading early stage financiers in Canada and the United States.

The financing for three-year-old Xanadu Quantum Technologies Inc. was led by Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) and backed by Canada’s Georgian Partners Inc., Radical Ventures and Real Ventures, American billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper and Silicon Valley Bank.

They add to the surge of investment in quantum computers, an emerging class of technology that many scientists, corporate leaders and investors believe will have transformative effects on the sector. If the technology proves to be viable, quantum machines stand to perform far more complicated calculations, at exponentially faster speeds, than conventional computers.

UofTMed Alumni: Our foray into health care entrepreneurship, in AI and radiology

We met in our radiology residency at U of T and bonded over our common interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

At the time, many people saw AI as a threat, fearing it would make radiologists obsolete. But we were convinced otherwise.

Both of us loved computer science and engineering (Mark had an engineering degree; Alex started programming as a kid). And we knew recent advances in technology could make a huge difference to medical imaging and diagnostics

Watch these U of T students unveil the solar car they hope will shine brightest in Australia

Toronto-based engineering students are hoping to drive to victory with their newest solar vehicle at a 3,000- km race in Australia later this year.

The University of Toronto’s Blue Sky Solar Racing team unveiled their 10th generation vehicle, the Viridian, at the university on Monday. 

“You start with a full pack of battery charge at the beginning of the race, and that’s all you have for the entire competition,” said Samantha Chau, the team’s electromechanical engineer.

Reeddi: Putting power in the hands of the people

A hearty “Yah!” accompanied by a fist-pump of victory, is what Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc Candidate) remembers best about Victoria Day.

While the rest of the country was enjoying an extra day off as part of the holiday long weekend, Olubanjo heard of his startup’s latest prize – an award of US$10,000 as a runner-up in the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. This is the third award the startup has received in 2019, as well as a provisional patent.

Olubanjo and his team at Reeddi Inc (pronounced “ready”) want to bring clean, affordable and portable power to the people of Nigeria, giving them autonomy over their otherwise expensive and unpredictable energy grid.

Many new inventions are conceived in the pursuit of solving a problem. In this case, the seed was sown in 2017 while in Toronto and the frustration of often being suddenly disconnected while talking to friends or family back home by phone. He would later usually find out the disconnection was the result of an all-too-frequent power outage.

Olubanjo recalls being “at Massey College at night with light everywhere,” and couldn’t imagine returning home where it was like “going back to darkness.” Growing up in Nigeria with sometimes only two hours of electricity a day, he set out to find a solution to a daily problem faced by many back home. The MASc student’s very personal irritant was the spark, which lead to a solution for a much broader issue.

#TrueNorth19 speakers argue the future of privacy is the cloud

At day one of True North 2019, held by Communitech in Kitchener-Waterloo, MedStack CEO Balaji Gopalan and Ann Cavoukian, a privacy expert in residence at Ryerson University, both explored the issue of privacy in the emerging tech, and why decentralization could be pivotal in the future of data.

MedStack is a Toronto-based compliance solution for healthcare apps. The company aims to enable the adoption of digital innovation in healthcare, by allowing entrepreneurs to build healthcare applications and meet privacy compliance requirements through automation.

U of T’s Creative Destruction Lab joins global group pursuing a new, more stable cryptocurrency

The Creative Destruction Lab, a seed-stage entrepreneurship program affiliated with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, is joining a global group of organizations focused on developing a new cryptocurrency designed to increase access to financial services around the world.

The new cryptocurrency, called Libra, is expected to be available in 2020 and is designed to be more stable than alternatives like Bitcoin – the value of which has swung between about $4,600 and $12,000 this year alone. Libra, by contrast, will be pegged to a reserve of government-issued currencies like the euro or U.S. dollar.

More than two dozen big-name backers in finance, tech, the non-profit sector and more have already signed on as founding partners of a non-profit governing organization, based in Geneva, Switzerland, that is to govern the cryptocurrency’s infrastructure and ecosystem. They include MasterCard, Visa, Uber, Spotify and Facebook, which is leading the effort. CDL is currently the only academic – and Canadian – entity that’s agreed to explore the initiative.