AI startups earn top honours at Schulich Startup Night

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are driving innovation in today’s business landscape, and during the ninth biannual Schulich Startup Night it was AI companies Nugget and PurPicks that took home top honours.

The Dragons’ Den-like pitch competition gives York University’s Schulich School of Business and Lassonde School of Engineering students and alumni the opportunity to present their startups to a hand-selected panel of top industry professionals and an audience of their peers.

“It was amazing to see such an inspired turnout of students and alumni for the competition,” said Schulich Entrepreneur in Residence and Schulich Startup Night organizer Chris Carder. “With nearly 300 people cheering them on, we got to witness the most competitive and advanced field of Schulich and Lassonde startup companies to date. It’s clear we’ve reached another level in the development of the startup ecosystem here on campus.”

Nugget AI founders York undergrads Ali El-Shayeb and Mariam Walaa with contest judges

Nugget AI founders, York undergrads Ali El-Shayeb and Mariam Walaa, with contest judges

PurPicks founder York alumna Jenise Lee (MBA ’12) with contest judges

PurPicks founder, York alumna Jenise Lee (MBA ’12), with contest judges

In the “Taking Off” category, Nugget AI came out on top. Founded by undergrads Ali El-Shayeb and Mariam Walaa, the company is a talent discovery platform for employers to assess candidates through job simulation games.

In the “In Flight” category, Jenise Lee (MBA ’12) took home top prize with her startup PurPicks. Building on her success from her original company CertClean, which is Canada’s only certification for safer beauty and personal care products, PurPicks is a user-generated review platform that shares unvarnished truths about nontoxic and organic beauty and skincare products.

“While running CertClean I suffered from ‘analysis paralysis’ and struggled to make decisions because there were so many unknowns and variables,” Lee said. “Now with PurPicks, we have achieved a global audience because we’re failing and learning quickly and know what to double down on a lot sooner.”

Each winner received a prize package from the event’s generous sponsors, including: a cash prize, six hours of in-house counsel with Aluvion Law, fast-tracked financing review from Futurpreneur, five hours of mentoring by Schulich Entrepreneur in Residence Chris Carder, an NBA prize package, a promotion video package from StartupFuel and custom made-to-measure suits by Indochino.

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