Innovation Night: Another IF #HamOnt Success!
Just last Wednesday, November 6th here at our own Hamilton McMaster Innovation Park the Innovation Factory once again held their big quarterly Innovation Night competition and was what can only be called a true successful event! The Innovation Factory has run this event many many times in the past 3 years and yes, I’ve blogged about them all here…
First the Atrium was sold out…not a seat to be had and there was I’m told a waiting list for attendants too so the hubbub was big and the buzz strong and we were all pumped and ready for the whole evening’s ceremonies. Our MC was yes, David Carter the Innovation Factory CEO and he was as surprised as the rest of us “usual attendees” when he asked how many folks were there that night for their very first-ever Innovation Night event when more’n half the audience raised a hand!
Cool! New blood is always good and it was so nice to see so many faces that I, as a regular attendee, didn’t know or recognize. It would also be appropos to reveal that our MC David has a real sense of humour in that he made quite a few chuckles and outright guffaws occur when he talked about the big difference between the high-tech audience and surroundings and the voting methodology to be used that night where one votes for the winners via tossing a marble into a glass bowl. I too laughed right out loud and in watching those bowls fill with the more than 400+ marbles it seemed to me that it worked quite well!
Presesnting that night were the following new startup firms….
- Cloud IT
- The Socialites
- Senior City
- Hamilton Brewery
- McMaster Entrepreneurship Association
As you can see, there were only about 10 pitches to go thru and yes, each got their 3 minutes to pitch and then an open ended Q&A session where anyone in the audience can ask questions. And what questions there were too….
But rather than go thru that Q&A I thought I’d mention only my own single question – to the company named “The Socialites” which was presented by two very young boys who talked about their own startup and what they are trying to acomplish…here’s how they put it themselves -
“Our product is a communication toolkit designed to help bridge the age and communication gap between seniors and juniors, and it is a stepping stone in the fight against loneliness. After researching challenges that face the aging population, one of the ideas that came up several times was that we had a hard time having a conversation with our grandparents and that we didn’t know what to say to them. We looked into loneliness further and we found that is was a very major problem that faced the senior population, as 10 seniors commit suicide every week due to loneliness in Canada alone.
After refining the research and idea through our competitions, that idea evolved into our current toolkit. It consists of three decks of cards. There is the “Juniors Answer”, which are cards with a question on it that the seniors ask the kids. There is the “Seniors Answer”, which are cards that the juniors ask the seniors. On the Seniors Answer cards, there is also a fact so that the juniors know what the question is about. The last deck of cards is the “Topic Cards” deck, which are cards with 1 or 2 words to pick up and discuss.
We created a first draft of the questions and topics then we looked them over, and improved them gradually until we had the questions we have now.
Part of our product is that while we are conversing with the seniors, we are learning about history at the same time, because each senior lived through different events in their lifetime and this toolkit helps the juniors learn about them…”
Simply put, I asked “just how old are you two?” which was followed by the answer that the two boys on stage were 12 and 15 years old. Yes, there was a bit of a gasp from the audience but for the most part we were all in a bit of a state of shock – I know I was. 12 & 15? At that age I was more interested in riding my bike or playing with the family dog that starting up my own business….so yes, kudos to this whole group of smart young people – there are 8 students from Oakville in this startup and you can find out more here at their website – www.lonelysenior.ca !
And the winner? Well for the first time ever I believe, both prizes for The Best Pitch and The Best Business Idea were won by the same firm – and yes, it was The Socialites and their anti-lonelyness toolkit!
What a great idea and trust me when I say, that this founders team will definitely be heard of again….and again….and again!Google