Bridging the gap between women and entrepreneurship

By breaking barriers and creating a space for entrepreneurs, The Hub, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC)’s startup incubator, plays a vital role in helping visionary students start their businesses and reach their full potential. While ensuring that every student has an equal opportunity to thrive in the entrepreneurial area they desire, The Hub has made special efforts to increase visibility of women in the space.

Moving along the business cycle can be perceived as tough for women in some cases, but The Hub aims to assure that it is a safe space for everyone to knock on the doors without any hesitance. Gray Graffam, director of The Hub feels that there hasn’t been enough effort made in the past to incorporate women in entrepreneurship in Toronto. The Hub has helped to change that, in its own way, by welcoming more women to The Hub.

Kale lover turned sustainability entrepreneur – Conner Tidd, Just Vertical

Since graduating from U of T’s Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) program in 2017, Conner Tidd and his cofounder Kevin Jakiela have taken what began as their final year Capstone project and turned it into a rapidly growing vertical farming startup company. Along the way they have gained recognition as a “Clean50” emerging leader and a “Top 30 under 30” sustainability and human rights leader.

U of T entrepreneur to make leather goods out of old airline seats

Lynne Corvaglia, a fourth-year student at the University of Toronto, recently took home a $5,000 grand prize for her startup idea: turning old leather airline seats into handbags, notebook covers and other items – all while employing female artisans in Costa Rica.

She plans to launch her startup, called S.O.S. Leather, while doing an extended co-op placement at the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) through U of T Scarborough’s international development studies program. 

Her proposed business will use 64 tons of leather donated to CATIE in the name of sustainability by Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, which decided to remove the leather seats from its fleet of about 750 Boeing 737s to reduce weight.

“I’m extremely happy,” said Corvaglia after winning a recent pitch competition hosted by The Hub, a startup accelerator at U of T Scarborough. “This all came to fruition in a relatively short time.”

2017 grad co-founds healthcare startup

The first thing you see when you go to the website of Hypercare, the start-up co-founded by Faculty of Information alumnus Albert Tai, is its sales pitch to health care administrators: “No more pagers. No more phone tag.”

Tai says people who don’t work in the healthcare sector are often stunned to find out that the old-fashioned pager remains ubiquitous in hospitals. “There’s a joke about it,” he says. “It used to be only doctors and drug dealers using pagers. Now it’s just doctors.”

According to Tai, the omnipresent pager is but one symptom of the healthcare sector’s serious malaise. Other symptoms include the ongoing use of fax machines and dependency on old-fashioned call centres within the hospital to track down doctors on call. “Everyone knows healthcare is lagging usually 10 or 15 years behind every other industry,” says Tai, who completed his Bachelor’s in computer science and medical science before enrolling at the Faculty of Information in 2015.

iMerciv makes life more navigable for pedestrians with vision loss

Whether you are driving or hopping in an Uber, you probably depend on a navigation app to get where you need to be.

But as handy as these tools are, they have significant drawbacks that leave behind many potential users, especially those with accessibility needs who travel on foot. University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering alumnus Bin Liu aims to change that.

“Anything physical has an impact on the way we travel,” says Liu. “Potholes, narrow sidewalks, low hanging tree branches, construction – none of these things are considered by current solutions.”

Liu has spent a lot of time thinking about barriers to mobility. Five years ago, while studying civil engineering with a minor in engineering business, Liu met Arjun Mali, the future co-founder of their company iMerciv, at a poker game. The two students quickly discovered that they shared a love of entrepreneurship, as well as experience working with people who have impaired vision.

“I had recently learned that my dad has glaucoma, and Arjun grew up working at an orphanage and school for the blind in India,” says Liu. “We wanted to see if we could do anything to help.”

Deep Genomics, founded by U of T’s Brendan Frey, named to CNBC list of most promising startups

Deep Genomics, the genetic medicine startup founded by University of Toronto Professor Brendan Frey, was one of five Canadian companies that cracked the 2019 CNBC Upstart 100 list unveiled on Tuesday, a ranking of the world’s most promising startups.

Frey tells CNBC his company has benefited from the thriving startup ecosystem in Canada and the openness of universities like U of T to let researchers take their intellectual property with them. 

Deep Genomics, which harnesses artificial intelligence to develop treatments for genetic diseases, has raised $20 million in funding and hired 40 employees. The company has recently declared a drug candidate for the genetic disorder Wilson Disease, CNBC says, and plans to announce nine more candidates next year. 

Collectively, the five Canadian startups named in the Upstart list have raised more than US$77 million in startup capital. Executives cite the country’s rich talent pool supplied by universities as one of the keys to their success. 

A brake from school: In conversation with engineering graduate Nikola Kostic on aircraft brake shortlisted for the James Dyson Award

The design of an innovative aircraft brake by Nikola Kostic, a recent mechanical engineering alum from the University of Toronto, has been selected as one of the top 20 finalists for the James Dyson Award (JDA).

The prestigious annual international engineering design award has been promoted in engineering design courses at U of T. It rewards a cash prize of $50,000, and the finalists’ designs are reviewed by the renowned innovator James Dyson himself.

The Aeroflux contactless brake, Kostic’s design, previously won first place at Hatchery’s demo day where its team of Nikola Kostic, together with Stevan Kostic and Roshan Varghese, received initial funding to develop their idea as a result.

How Aeroflux works

‘I went out and started my own thing’: U of T grad on his decision to build a cryptocurrency-focused startup

Christian Cordero, who graduates this week with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Toronto Scarborough, is someone who gets things done.

So, it should come as little surprise to anyone who knows him that, during his undergraduate career, he participated in three co-op terms and, during his third year, collaborated in an online business that is already making modest profits.

“I learned a lot of theory in class, but I wanted to apply it – so I went out and started my own thing,” Cordero says.

That “thing” is, a website that teaches users about cryptocurrency mining via a videogame that illustrates the process. Players earn cryptocurrency rewards as they progress, an incentive to keep returning to the site. “It’s such a new industry and I latched onto it,” Cordero says.

Cordero’s path to becoming an entrepreneur began reading and researching about cryptocurrency technology and investing some of his own money. During his fourth year at U of T Scarborough, he completed a co-op term with TD Bank’s blockchain group. The experience gave Cordero the confidence to look for opportunities in the world of cryptocurrency. Before long he was assisting clients in the industry.