Students in the University of King’s College Master of Journalism New Ventures program were major prize-winners this past weekend at “Startup Weekend Halifax.” The entrepreneurial forum was hosted by the Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship at Dalhousie University and colleagues from the “Lean Start-up” movement, which originated in Silicon Valley.
King’s graduate student Angela Mombourquette pitched her idea for a “freemium” website and mobile app entitled “Life After Gluten.” It offers comprehensive dietary and lifestyle information for celiacs and anyone with a grain aversion. Mombourquette guided her team of students to a second-place finish and a prize of $3000. A blue-ribbon panel of investors and serial entrepreneurs praised Mombourquette and her colleagues for “a strong pitch and a clear idea.” They encouraged her to “go to market” with “Life After Gluten” and offered advice on how to secure additional funds to develop the new venture.
Geoff Davies (BJH ’10), a fellow King’s MJ student, was part of a team led by entrepreneur Callum Mayer from Dalhousie. He was pitching “UNIfy,” an online program to connect university alumni with students working on innovative new businesses. Davies used his journalistic skills to help Mayer find timely and valuable research data. The UNIfy team walked away with the big prize of $5000, as well as the “People’s Choice” award worth an additional $2000. Mombourquette’s team was a runner-up for that prize.
“I am almost speechless,” Mombourquette said to Don Sedgwick, a coach and instructor in the MJ New Ventures program. “This is amazing!” Davies was equally enthusiastic. “I knew I wanted to work with the guys at Dal,” he said. “They’re really smart and they’ve got great business ideas.”
Also participating in “Startup Weekend Halifax” from King’s were Marina Fazel and Mohammed Asiri. Both students will be developing their entrepreneurship projects for a pitch session at Dalhousie next April in front of a panel of Halifax investors. Judges for “Startup Weekend Halifax” were Andre Boudreau, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Stephen Duff, Innovacorp; Saeed El-Darahali, SimplyCast; and Tim Upton, Common Good Solutions. Organizers of the event were Ed Leach and Mary Kilfoil, two of the leading entrepreneurship educators in Canada.