Innovation OnBoard wraps up successful first year

Innovation OnBoard

The path to innovation and entrepreneurship is filled with continuous setbacks and unexpected surprises. Students often learn from painful experience that their brilliant idea or wonderful solution is often for a problem that does not exist. This vital lesson is one that visionaries often learn through failure; however, it does not have to be this way.

Innovation OnBoard (IOB) began its life as a vague idea of mentoring enterprising students, specifically in the field of engineering. The story began in May 2017, when two students had just watched their hopes for a venture in medical technology crash and burn after a year of sleepless nights preparing PowerPoint presentations and prototyping in dusty workshops. Unsure of what steps to take next, they consulted experts in the field, as well as supportive faculty members. It was with the addition of their third member that IOB developed in its current form.

Innovation OnBoard’s primary mission is to inspire UBC students to find innovative solutions to the problems plaguing society and industry. This mission is accomplished in three stages. First, students are educated on how to build a successful venture through three months of lectures and seminars taught by world-renowned entrepreneurs. Then they are encouraged to form teams from their peers and are interviewed by the team founders, who match them with experts in their field or companies with specific problems. This culminates in a two-stage competition, with the top three ventures being enrolled into an intensive entrepreneurship program to advance their start-up.

Founders Vasilii Triandafilidi, Athanasios Kritharis and Said Zaid-Alkailani hit the ground running. They formed a cohesive team, scheduled events and raised the money required to run their operation. With the ongoing support of e@UBC, the Faculty of Applied Science and the UBC Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, their success was made possible.

The first workshop, “Resources for Entrepreneurs in Vancouver,” was held in September 2017 and with more than 100 attendees, it made history by being the largest UBC entrepreneurship workshop to date.

Throughout the year, speakers such as Darrell Kopke (founding team member of Lululemon) and Chris Reid (Founder, Cellex Power Products) trained a cohort of 25 groups of eager entrepreneurs on how to take their idea from “bench to trench.”

After the workshops and lectures were completed, the competition stage of the program commenced. Of the 15 teams that made it to stage one, only six survived; teams presented ground-breaking ideas from a portable and inexpensive electron microscope to zero-waste coffee-cups made from coffee grounds. The final six teams received a crash course in venture pitching, and two weeks to prepare for a final showdown, where they would for compete for $10,000 in cash prizes.

The competition was held on February 8, 2018, at UBC’s Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre, with a panel of judges that included Claudio Arato (CTO of SonoAsh), Bojana Turic (VP Operations at Aspect Biosystems), Chris Reid (Blair Simonite) and Pat Brady (Director of the Industry Innovation Programs at Genome BC).

First place was awarded to Cleo, who developed a product that helps cure urinary incontinence for women. Second place went to AweSEM with a truly innovative iteration on the modern electron microscope. Third place was given to Biomod, a team that is developing an assay for the early detection of lung cancer from blood samples.

From the organizers' perspective, Innovation OnBoard's first year could not have been more of a success. And we can expect to see more innovations spawn from this UBC start-up program in years to come.

View photos of the final competition.


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