York University’s entrepreneurship unit, LaunchYU, awarded one of its top ventures, Senior Care Connect, with the first $25,000 Aird & Berlis StartupSource Market Entry Award on Feb. 15.
During this highly anticipated event, held at York University, three graduating ventures from the LaunchYU four-month accelerator program presented their final pitch to an audience of family, friends, judges, mentors, and university officials.
The panel of five judges (Angelo Del Duca, York Angel Investors; Ryan El Bar, Aviva Canada; Daniel Israelsohn, Plaza Ventures; Jess Joss, York Angel Investors; and Ehsan Mirdamadi, Serial Entrepreneur and Angel Investor) selected the winner based on the largest potential commercial impact. Founder, Kristal Lewis, along with her co-founder Taiwo McGregor, graciously accepted the award for their company, Senior Care Connect; a one-stop shop for senior care that connects seniors and their families to care options.
“Winning the award was a surreal experience!” said Lewis. “We (myself and co-founder Taiwo McGregor) put in so much work to build our vision and winning something like this is not only very validating, but is also very impactful in pushing Senior Care Connect forward.”
There is no doubt that winning this award will have a notable impact on this growing startup. However, it was no easy race. The competition was fierce; and included two finalists from the LaunchYU AccelerateUP program, KPI Ninja, a SaaS based healthcare analytics company already in 17 hospitals across North America, and Lyofresh Technologies, an innovative startup that has developed a new freeze drying technology.
The newly created award has been made possible by Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis LLP and Partner Randy Williamson. Together, they have donated $100,000 in cash and legal services to LaunchYU and, over the next four years, the award will annually recognize the top venture from AccelerateUP.
Williamson’s ties with York University are longstanding; he is a York University alumnus, Board of Governors and Investment Committee Member, and Board Chair of the York University Alumni Association.
“The partnership with Randy and Aird & Berlis is an important step for the growth of LaunchYU,” says Sarah Howe, director of Innovation York. “Not only does the award provide a leg up for a very promising startup, it also speaks to the caliber of the ventures that participate in our programs. We’re attracting high quality startups. This is a very exciting time for LaunchYU.”
The Aird & Berlis support for Innovation York’s entrepreneurship unit, LaunchYU, was first announced at the program’s graduation, held last year. Students who had completed an intensive 20 weeks of training in the LaunchYU AccelerateUP program pitched their ventures to an audience of industry executives, investors, and government officials. The top three ventures were awarded $5,000 from Innovation York. Since then, the ventures have worked with program mentors to prepare them for this competition.
Although it wasn’t an easy journey, Senior Care Connect is thankful. “We are so grateful to York University, the LaunchYU program and to Aird & Berlis, for the opportunity and the continuous support they have given us,” said Lewis.
It is clear that future award winners will surely benefit from the substantial impact that this new award will create; one that has the potential to forever change their startup journey.
Applications are now open for the next cohort of the AccelerateUP program which will produce the next winner of the Aird & Berlis StartupSource Market Entry Award. Only 20 ventures will be selected for the program which begins in May.
LaunchYU has supported more than 2000 entrepreneurs and more than 100 ventures in its first three years of operation. The program provides three main programs: IgniteUP, a one-on-one mentorship program, RevUP an evening workshop series, and AccelerateUP, a four-month intensive program to help entrepreneurs as they build, launch, and scale their venture. To learn more about LaunchYU and its programs, visit http://launchyu.ca/