Desjardins Startup Prize

Awarding more than $100K in prizes to U of T’s most innovative entrepreneurs

Presented by

Delivered by University of Toronto Entrepreneurship


The Desjardins Startup Prize is U of T’s annual business pitch competition offering over $100,000 in prizes to recognize, reward, and accelerate the University of Toronto’s most innovative startups.

Ten finalists will be selected to pitch their business idea in the 2023 Desjardins Startup Prize Pitch Competition taking place the week of March 6-9, as part of Entrepreneurship Week. The selected individuals or teams will compete by showcasing their startup via a five-minute pitch to a panel of investor judges.

Congratulations to the 2023 Startup Prize winners!

Early-Stage Category

  • 1st Place: SilicoLabs
  • 2nd Place: Laetech
  • 3rd Place: Specifix Dx
  • Dongjun Wang Family True Blue Prize (People’s Choice): Laetech
Silico Co-founders, Benjamin Alsbury-Nealy, CEO, and Kyla Alsbury-Nealy, COO, accept the first-place prize for early-stage category startup at True Blue Impact Day on March 9.

Late-Stage Category

  • 1st Place: Deaf AI
  • 2nd Place: Shiphrah Biomedical Inc.
  • 3rd Place: Inwit
  • Dongjun Wang Family True Blue Prize (People’s Choice): Deaf AI
Deaf AI Co-founders, Azadeh Bojmehrani and Medhi Masoumi accept the first-place prize for Late-stage category startup and People’s Choice Award at True Blue Impact Day on March 9.

2023 Finalists


Co-founded by Ehi Agbonlahor

Anutio is a 24/7 AI-powered personalized career advisor app that empowers students and professionals with personalized data to create fulfilling career paths through discovery of their natural strengths, interests, and priorities aligned to emerging lucrative career pathways for the future of work

The BRIDGE / Black Founders Network / The Hub

AI/Machine | Learning Education | Social Impact


Co-founded by Brian Webb and Yizhou Chen

Laetech is developing novel reconstructive and cosmetic solutions by harnessing the healing power of a patient’s own cells, with the goal of decreasing pain and discomfort while increasing the scope of care surgeons can provide to their patients.


Health & Life Sciences


Co-founded by Kyla Alsbury-Nealy, Benjamin Alsbury-Nealy & Chirag Chopra

SilicoLabs has developed a no-code software platform that empowers users to create 2D and 3D interactive experiences and real-world simulations to train, test and assess human and AI behaviour. These experiences can be delivered on desktop, mobile, VR and AR devices, and integrates data from biosensors (ex. EEG, heart rate, spO2, etc.).


Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality | AI & Machine Learning

Specifix Dx

Co-founded by Jessica Jenkins, Siobhan Wilson, and Jaspreet Randhawa

Specifix Dx aspires to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and decrease mortality due to antibiotic resistance. This will be achieved through the creation of UroStix, a rapid urinary tract infection (UTI) detection test that can reduce false positive UTI indications by at least 70%.


Health & Life Sciences


Co-founded by Hudson Yuen & Vit Vimal

Tuuli is the first integrated platform for building material data discovery and management. We cut the time it takes to select sustainable materials by 80%, empowering real estate developers, architects, and governments to fuel the green building market of the future.

The Hatchery

Construction & Infrastructure | Cleantech & Sustainability

Acrylic Robotics

Co-founded by Kyle Suri

Acrylic Robotics is using robotics and AI to bring scalability to the art world, capturing artists’ brushstrokes while they paint and reproducing each stroke with robotic arms using real paint on canvas, allowing artists to sell more editions per design. 

Arts, Entertainment & Media | AI/Machine Learning  

Deaf AI

Co-founded by Azadeh Bojmehrani

Training machines with artificial intelligence to do sign language to improve the experience of communicating with those who are deaf or have hearing impairments. “Our mission is to serve deaf people to have better experiences in public life through AI-based solutions.”


AI/Machine Learning  |  Social Impact


Inwit is Toronto’s first Zero Waste Takeout Ordering Platform. It is an innovative solution to single-use waste. A marketplace that encompasses a reusable container borrowing system, rewards system, and a food ordering platform, all tracked by NFC technology.


Social Impact | Cleantech & Sustainability

Pahk Solutions

Co-founded by Tina Saberi & Foad Arvani

Pahk Solutions provides a tech platform to communities enabling them to reduce their aggregate carbon footprint by managing the personal footprint of individuals. Pahk differentiates itself by making the process easy and engaging for users through automatic carbon monitoring and a gamified user experience.

The Hatchery

Cleantech & Sustainability

Shiphrah Biomedical Inc.

Co-founded by Allan Kember & Salim Kandedi

For all pregnancies that have never been evaluated for sleep apnea, we’re developing a user-friendly, web-based, AI-powered platform that enables contactless and accurate sleep testing at home for streamlining sleep apnea screening, diagnosis, and treatment during pregnancy.


AI/Machine Learning | Health & Life Sciences

$100K in

Meet past Startup Prize winners


The competition includes two categories for startups: Early Stage and Later Stage, based on funding raised by the venture. Three prizes are offered for each stage and finalists will have the opportunity to win an additional $4,000 with the Dongjun Wang Family True Blue Prize (People’s Choice). Please read the eligibility criteria in the “How it Works” section below to learn more about funding thresholds.

Early Stage

Early-Stage Prize: Startups must have received less than $50,000 in cumulative funding or investment, and less than $25,000 cumulative revenue as of the date of the Prize pitch competition. 

  • 1st place: $15,000
  • 2nd place: $10,000
  • 3rd place: $5,000
  • People’s Choice: $4,000

Later Stage

Later-Stage Prize: Startups must have received between $50,000 and $250,000 cumulative funding or investment, and less than $100,000 in cumulative revenue as of the date of the Prize pitch competition.

  • 1st place: $40,000
  • 2nd place: $20,000
  • 3rd place: $10,000
  • People’s Choice: $4,000

How it works

  • University of Toronto Entrepreneurship (UTE) community: At least one founder is a current full-time U of T student, post-doc or a recent alum from a full-time program (i.e. graduated no earlier than July 2020). 
  • Affiliation with a U of T Accelerator is strongly encouraged. 
  • Open to all faculties and sectors. 
  • *Early-Stage Prize: Startups must have received less than $50,000 in cumulative funding or investment and less than $25,000 in cumulative revenue as of the date of the Prize pitch competition. 
  • **Later-Stage Prize: Startups must have received between $50,000 and $200,000 cumulative funding or investment, and less than $100,000 in cumulative revenue as of the date of the Prize pitch competition. 
  • Funding thresholds include equity funding, grants, and previous prizes. 
  • Entrants must be able to present to the selection committee in person the week of March 6-10, 2023; adjustments will be made as needed based on health & safety considerations.  
  • Startups are only eligible to compete as finalists once per category over the lifetime of the venture.
  • Companies that are not yet incorporated may apply, however, incorporation is required in order to receive the prize money.  
  • Primary applicant must complete U of T’s IP Education Level 1 course by November 30, 2022. For applicants who already have a strong foundation in their IP knowledge, completion of Level 1 can be replaced by completion of a Level 2 Topic. If you already have extensive knowledge or experience with IP matters and wish to take Level 2 without taking Level 1, please request a waiver of the Level 1 pre-requisite on the Level 2 Registration Forms by typing “UTE Startup Prize Application Waiver” in the field that asks “What date did you complete Level 1?”  

October 17 – November 30, 2022

Competition entry window.

Please submit your application form before 5:00 pm on November 30, 2022.

Applications received after this time will not be considered.  

January 2023

Finalists notified and pitch preparation commences.

The 10 applicants selected to compete will be notified in January and encouraged to work with an advisor from one of U of T’s accelerators to help them prepare. Please note that UTE may assess Early-Stage startups in January 2022 and reserves the right to reclassify to Later Stage category based on the eligibility criteria. 

march 6-10, 2023

Pitch competition and winner selection.

The competition will take place the week of March 6-10 with five startups competing for the Early Stage Prize and five for the Later Stage Prize. Each startup will present a five-minute pitch to a panel of entrepreneurs and investors followed by a five-minute Q & A from the panel.

At both the entry and competition day stages, the panel of judges will be evaluating the startup based on:

  • Problem Identification / Opportunity: A clearly articulated and compelling value proposition
  • Viability: Clear knowledge of the market and evidence of demand for the solution
  • Growth potential: Sustainable and scalable business model
  • Innovation: Unique solution, differentiated vs. competitors, including intellectual property considerations
  • Talent: A strong team
  • Communication skills: An effective and persuasive overall Executive Summary and pitch presentation
  • Strategy & Financial Plan: How you plan to use the prize money

Applications for the 2023 Desjardins Startup Prize are now closed.

Call for applications to the 2024 Desjardins Startup Prize competition will begin in Fall 2023.


Please direct all questions regarding the 2023 Desjardins Startup Prize or application process to:

Kay Martinez
Business Services and Program Coordinator, University of Toronto Entrepreneurship
Subject line: Questions: Desjardins Startup Prize

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