Incubator helps develop ideas

·5 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The second cohort from the Ascend Accelerator program in Thunder Bay, hosted by the Ingenuity incubator space, celebrated their graduation and showcased their entrepreneurial skills through their business concepts on Friday.

Ingenuity manager Alyson MacKay said this year’s graduates from the 12-week course, which included six participants who explored five ideas, have been “absolutely incredible.”

“We took five student-based businesses this year, with ideas from a lash installation technician to an app for nurses that helps them deal with intravenous timing,” MacKay said. “They all started in very different places, and they’ve all ended up in different places and they’ve worked extremely hard. We have one that’s about to launch, we’ve got two that are still sort of market testing or market researching and we’ve got one that’s going to app beta testing.”

Beta testing means their application is ready but it will be handed off to testers to see if it works so that they can move to unveil it.

To take part in the on-campus Lakehead University business incubator accelerator program, participants have to be students at the university studying in other faculties.

“I have a nursing student, a political science student, I’ve got some engineers, some are returning and some are graduating,” MacKay said. “We give them up to $7,500 in funding, thanks to the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor), and then when we work through milestone meetings, workshops, and we get the mentors to spend an extreme amount of time with them.”

Ikpemosi Esther Ukiomogbe, who is a political science pre-law student at the university, is targeting students with her lash extension service called A26 Studio.

“I am creating a safe place for people of colour and minorities to come in and get services without being discriminated against based on the colour of their skin or their financial or cultural background,” she said.

“I knew I wanted to be in a customer-based service and I wanted to do lashes on people . . . and the ingenuity program basically helped me with that, from my market research to finding locations to helping me with funding my certification, which was pretty expensive. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.”

Ukiomogbe is ready to open A26 Studio in September in time for the school crowd to arrive.

Software engineering graduate Christopher Silver is heading into a master’s program in electrical and computer engineering and has developed Silver Advantage Software, which is targeted at elderly people, their families, and caregivers.

“I have developed a sensor that goes in the corner of a room, and it will detect if someone has fallen or has a fever,” he said. “We can connect it with a personal support worker, health-care worker or a family member and if it detects a fall or a fever, it will let the associated person know on a mobile app, like a notification and a text that says the patient has fallen.”

The sensor provides a means for immediate help that could ultimately be life-saving. Unlike a camera, the sensor only sees an outline of the person adding an extra layer of privacy.

Silver is in the process of converting the algorithm from one sensor to another and hopes to unveil it early next year.

Max Robinson is a fourth-year university nursing student and has developed Infusion, an interactive programmable app that alerts nurses and medical staff to perform infusions on patients at scheduled times. The application will help nurses track their care tasks, including infusions, through smart notifications to their smartwatch and iPhone.

“Since nurses have so many tasks they need to attend to among different room numbers, the point of my app is to try to organize their tasks by room number and then send them reminders through notifications when they need to go back for another task,” Robinson said.

Still in the testing stages, Robinson hopes to unveil his app soon.

Derek Patterson and Gavin Shields have developed Portal North Inc., which provides 360-degree virtual tours of businesses, and historical and tourism locations.

“We are sort of like a narrative storytelling company because it’s not just two-dimensional, like the Google Streetview, where you come in and you see the inside, we’re actually interested in hosting information from that client,” said Shields, who has a philosophy degree and is enrolled in Indigenous learning.

“This could be accessed on your iPhone . . . and the benefit of this is instead of that flat, 2D image, there’s actually 3D storytelling potential where we can link images, videos, text, sound, all of that on to the tours, and dive into the story of the business.”

Patterson, who is also enrolled in Indigenous learning and has a physics degree, said they want to eventually start building their own software to access more tracking tools. It would allow the businesses to create added value by being able to own and use the product. The pair are using third-party software for Portal North Inc., which has already come through the testing stage.

Lakehead University student Zakary Williams wasn’t present at the graduation, but was successful in creating Gaze Guitar, the software development of a virtual musical instrument to enable people with physical disabilities to create and play music.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal