Start-up assistance

Student-run companies focused on medical and automotive technologies were the big winners of the 2022 Mel Woodward Cup on March 23.

PragmaClin Research, co-founded by Pharmacy PhD student Bronwyn Bridges, won the top prize of $25,000 for software that provides motor and non-motor assessments for people with Parkinson’s disease. Gord Genge, entrepreneur and patient with Parkinson’s disease, is the company’s co-founder.

“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Ms. Bridges. “It confirms that our hard work is paying off and that we are moving in the direction of improving the lives of patients with Parkinson’s disease, and beyond.”

Left to right, Bronwyn Bridges and Gord Genge, founders of PragmaClin Research, are the winners of the 2022 Mel Woodward Cup.

Photo: Submitted

Milestone for MechMonkey

The finalist was MechMonkey Solutions, founded by fourth-year business administration student Barath Sundar and private banker Manoj Khandavelli. They won $15,000 for a mobile app that helps auto repair shops and their customers book and track auto service appointments.

“We are very excited about the next steps,” Sundar said, adding that the MechMonkey app will launch next week.

The top two teams receive in-kind prizes from Altitude Media, Gardiner Centre, Genesis, HeyOrca!, KMPG, McInnes Cooper, Perfect Day, Salt Water Bath Bombs and TechNL.

Two new awards, valued at $2,500 each, were created this year and funded by the Fry Family Foundation.

PragmaClin won the Fry Family Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Award for Women and Non-Binary Leadership and Cannaby received the Fry Family Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Award for a Seed-Stage Idea.

Cannaby, founded by MSc student Laura Mateo and her partner Saioa Arrizabalaga, aims to educate users about safe cannabis consumption through a customizable dosage calculator.

Five finalists

The sixth edition of Mel Woodward Cupwhich is hosted by the Memorial Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE)saw five finalist teams compete virtually in front of a panel of judges located in Boston, Mass., New York, NY and St. John’s, NL

The other finalists are below.

  • CORSphere: bridges machine maintenance activities and high-level decision-making about those activities (founders: engineering student Sazied Hassan and science students Marc-André Brien and Tahrin Maruf);
  • InVerte: Creates adaptable scale technology to reduce inventory and labor costs for restaurants (Founders: Science student Johan Arcos Mendez, Business student Harshal Deshpande and Neil Nordeje); and
  • Unbarred Fitness: Creates wellness and exercise tools for home fitness practitioners (Founders: Marine Institute student Idiamin McKinney and Ebbetien Bullard).

Growth plans

“The main goal of the Mel Woodward Cup is to help accelerate the most innovative and high-potential student-led startups at Memorial,” said Florian Villaumé, Director of MCE. “With all the resources the winners now have access to, we want them to take their startups as far as possible. We hope they will create successful businesses that will contribute to a vibrant and diversified economy for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ms Bridges and Mr Sundar say their earnings will help them do just that.

MechMonkey is gearing up for its app launch and offering customers a 20% discount on their next vehicle service using promo code MECHMONKEY20.

Barath Sundar, co-founder of MechMonkey Solutions, is pictured in a screenshot of the Mel Woodward Cup.  It's on the left side of the screen.  An image of a check for $15,000 is on the right.
MechMonkey Solutions, co-founded by Barath Sundar, is the $15,000 finalist.

Photo: Submitted

Last month, the company was also accepted into the Genesis Enterprise program.

“As a start-up company from Newfoundland and Labrador, we want to give back to this ecosystem,” said Sundar. “Leveraging the prize money, we will soon begin hiring our technical team and business integration team here in St. John’s.”

PragmaClin will also use the prize money to grow their team.

Ms Bridges says they plan to hire a software engineer as well as improve the company’s marketing and business development strategies. They also hope to leverage the funds to earn venture capital.

“This opportunity will open the doors to many valuable relationships in the future.” — Bronwyn Bridges

Then they will conduct a clinical trial next year to validate the software, called Parkinson’s Remote Interactive Monitoring System (PRIMS).

“This opportunity will open doors for many valuable relationships in the future,” she said.

Largest number of applicants so far

Forty-three teams applied for the Mel Woodward Cup this year, the most applicants to date, with 10 being named semi-finalists in the preliminary judging round.

The competition has invested $220,000 in student-led startups with 211 teams and nearly 500 participating entrepreneurs since its inception.

The Mel Woodward Cup was created from a donation from the family of the late Dr. Mel Woodward, a well-known entrepreneur who founded the Woodward Group of Companies. Peter, Melvin and Tana Woodward collectively donated $1.13 million to Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administrationin memory of their father, to support student entrepreneurs through the MCE.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is also providing support for the contest.

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