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Funding boost

Mel Woodward Cup invests $40,000 in student-led hearing loss, health tech companies

Campus and Community

By Susan White

Robin Murphy learned about the risks of hearing loss and the importance of protecting against it while growing up.

Three people smile at the camera while standing in front of Quidi Vidi Brewery in the Gut.
From left are Joel Hatcher, Robin Murphy and Keeley Flynn, founders of Audyse Technology and winners of the 2021 Mel Woodward Cup.
Photo: Submitted

A startup he founded to do just that won $25,000 in seed funding last night at the 2021 Mel Woodward Cup (MWC) finals, a pitch competition for student entrepreneurs at Memorial University.

“My mom has a disease called Usher’s syndrome, meaning she has progressive hearing and vision loss. So, I learned that hearing is precious, and you need to protect it,” he said.

“When I started motorcycling, I was amazed to hear no real solution existed to protect hearing while maintaining situational awareness. I founded Audyse to help protect people and ensure they could listen to what they needed and cancel what they don’t.”

Mr. Murphy, a fourth-year computer engineering student, founded Audyse Technology with business partners Joel Hatcher, a process engineering student, and Keeley Flynn, a student at College of the North Atlantic. Audyse was also a finalist in the 2020 MCE competition.

“We are very grateful and excited to win,” Mr. Murphy said. “This will help our company move forward and will enable us to work towards our goals.”

‘Awesome feeling’

The virtual fifth edition of the MWC saw five finalist teams compete through pre-recorded video pitches and a live Q&A with a panel of judges from business and startup communities in St. John’s, N.L., Toronto, Ont., Washington, D.C., and the Bahamas.

Forty-two teams applied to participate in the competition.

Bx Medical Solutions, a health management platform that aims to help bariatric surgery patients track their progress and connect with their health-care teams post-surgery, won $15,000 as the runner-up.

The company was founded by computer engineering student Alex Mills and business partner Malcolm Snow (B.Sc.’20), who came up with the idea during a work term with the N.L. Bariatric Surgery Project at the Faculty of Medicine.

Head shots of Alex Mills, left, and Malcolm Snow are compiled into this one image.
From left are Alex Mills and Malcolm Snow, founders of MWC runner-up, Bx Medical Solutions.
Photo: Submitted

“It’s an awesome feeling seeing the hard work we have put in over the past several months pay off,” said Mr. Mills.

“This money will allow us to make the necessary additions to our team to continue with development. We’re also looking forward to seeing the product continue to grow, and hopefully provide significant benefits to patients and clinical care teams.”

Milestone competition

Both teams will receive in-kind prizes related to legal, marketing, market research, tax and business and professional development services from Altitude Media, Gardiner Centre, Genesis, HeyOrca!, KMPG, McInnes Cooper, Perfect Day and TechNL.

The MWC, hosted by the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE), has invested $180,000 in student-led startups since it began in 2017.

“It’s a great indication that entrepreneurs are able to find support and develop innovative businesses right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.” — Florian Villaumé

To date, 168 teams have participated, representing 374 participants.

“The Mel Woodward Cup has been an important early milestone for success stories like CoLab Software, BreatheSuite and PolyUnity,” said Florian Villaumé, director, MCE.

“It’s a great indication that entrepreneurs are able to find support and develop innovative businesses right here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Finalist list

The other three finalists were as follows:

  • Orogen Data: An application to organize projects and archive data using a laser-printed, barcoded tag that users scan to access information related to the specific core box (founders: Ali Fakhoury, master of science student; and Cole Inkpen);
  • Owlya: An artificial intelligence-powered online assessment platform designed to help instructors create smart online tests and detect cheating (founders: Chukwuebuka Amaefula and Martins Ojakpa, master of science students; Chukwuemeka Achilefu, master of applied science student; and Chukwuemeka Ezeiruaku); and,
  • CakeyHand: A business that allows users to design and order cakes from local bakeries (founders: Suren Margaryan, bachelor of science student; and Anna Paytyan).

Woodward family gift

The MWC was created in 2017 through 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 Administration, in memory of their father, to support student entrepreneurs through the MCE.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency also provides support for the competition.

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