U of T contest helps would-be entrepreneurs

Buoyed by the success of its first business plan competition, the University of Toronto announced a second contest with opportunities for more would-be entrepreneurs to enter.

“Winning is a great head start” for fledgling companies, U of T Innovations Foundation CEO George Adams said Wednesday. The foundation helps bring research to market.

He noted that investors offered a total of $3 million in financing to the six companies who topped the first competition earlier this year.

Most of the $200,000 in prizes are goods and services from sponsors such as Microsoft Canada and Compaq Computer Corp., However, the sum includes $90,000 in cash from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation for winning plans submitted by entrepreneurs under the age of 29.

But the big prize for winners are introductions to early stage venture companies looking for investments. Winners of the two main categories – best plan and most promising technology – are promised a minimum investment of $500,000 each.

One of the first contest’s finalists, Photo-Thermal Diagnostics Inc., is close to negotiating a $1.2 million investment, said Adams.

Participants also get the chance to be part of the foundation’s incubator, called The Exceler@tor.

Other benefits of entering include the opportunity to get expert advice, said Adams. Each plan will be graded at least five times by the competition’s sponsors, which include a number of venture capital firms, before being narrowed down. The best six will give a pitch to a panel of business experts and venture capitalists.

The first competition drew ideas for applications ranging from computer software that simulates the flow of fluids in manufacturing processes, to a multi-media content management application, to a corporate data search solution.

The first competition was open only to full or part-time U of T faculty, students and alumni. For the second competition, entrants can also be members of SMART Toronto, a business technology association; Liberty Village New Media Centre, a Toronto-based association of new media companies; and Strategic Health Innovations, a Toronto biotechnology consultancy to entrepreneurs looking for capital.

To help entrants polish their plans for submission Liberty Village and The Exceler@tor will hold several workshops in September.

A Web site will also be set up for contestants to chat with each other and swap ideas. Adams noted that in the first contest two people with similar ideas merged to create one plan.

Deadline for submissions, which will be done online, is Oct. 31. Winners will be announced at the end of November.

For workshop and contest details see www.innovationsfoundation.utoronto.ca.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including ITBusiness.ca. Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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