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Student-led health tech companies win $40,000 seed funding at Mel Woodward Cup

Campus and Community

By Susan White

Innovative business ideas focused on health technology and nutrition won the top prizes at the 2020 Mel Woodward Cup (MWC), hosted by the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE), yesterday.

Nikitha Kendyala, left, and Purvikalyan Pallegar, co-founders of Nucliq Biologics Inc.
From left are Nikitha Kendyala and Purvikalyan Pallegar, co-founders of Nucliq Biologics Inc.
Photo: Submitted

Nucliq Biologics Inc. captured the top prize of $25,000 for its plan to develop a gut check analysis kit that provides detailed analysis of gut microbial diversity, particularly of use for people suffering from digestive disorders.

Nucliq is co-founded by Purvikalyan Pallegar, a PhD candidate in biology, and alumna Nikitha Kendyala (PhD (biochemistry),’19). The company incorporated in 2019.

“We are so happy to be in first place,” said Mr. Pallegar. “We would like to thank the Woodward family and MCE for this opportunity. It gives immense support to early stage startups like us. Moreover, it provides us a bigger platform to reach out to larger audiences. Thank you to everyone who made this event happen.”

Prospre, co-founded by alumni Colin Hunt (B.Eng.’20) and Jonathan Young (B.Eng.’20), was named the $15,000 runner-up. Prospre is a mobile app that tracks nutrient intake and provides meal planning for gym-goers.

‘Every opportunity to succeed’

“We are thrilled to be selected for the $15,000 prize,” said Mr. Young. “We have been working with MCE for much of our undergraduate degrees, including an honourable mention at last year’s Mel Woodward Cup, so this made for a great way to cap that off.

“Fifteen-thousand dollars is a game-changing amount of money that will give us every opportunity to succeed.”

Prospre was founded in 2017 and is currently available in the Apple and Google Play app stores. The company is also enrolled in the Enterprise incubator program at Genesis.

Prospre co-founders Colin Hunt, left, and Jonathan Young.
From left are Prospre co-founders Colin Hunt and Jonathan Young.
Photo: Submitted

The two teams also earn in-kind prizes related to marketing, legal services, business development and taxation from Altitude Media, Perfect Day, Gardiner Centre, Genesis, KPMG, McInnes Cooper and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology and Innovation.

‘Innovative and high potential’

The fourth edition of the MWC saw five finalist teams compete virtually before a panel of judges from the business community and about 140 viewers. Twenty-six teams applied for the competition.

“The primary objective of the Mel Woodward Cup is to help accelerate the most innovative and high potential student-led startups at Memorial,” said Florian Villaumé, director, MCE. “With all the resources that the winners now have access to, we want them to take their startups as far as possible. We are hopeful they will build successful ventures that contribute to a vibrant and diverse economy for Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The other three finalists were as follows:

  • Audyse Technology: A solution that aims to solve hearing damage for motorcycle riders caused by driving at high speed (founders: Robin Murphy, Joel Hatcher, Clark Payne and Keeley Flynn);
  • Kute Lab Inc: A mobile application that assesses the compatibility of cosmetic products with users’ custom profiles (founders: Navid Eskandari and Sepideh Mehrani); and
  • Report Mate: A platform that facilitates report writing by subject matter experts through the use of artificial intelligence (founders: Holly Hill and Jeremie Larouche).
Emcee Adam Keating, the judging panel and team members from Kute Lab are pictured in this screen capture from the 2020 Mel Woodward Cup.
Emcee Adam Keating, the judging panel and team members from Kute Lab are pictured in this screen capture from the virtual 2020 Mel Woodward Cup.
Photo: Submitted

Next steps

Mr. Pallager and Mr. Young say winning the MWC will help them advance their companies.

Nucliq plans to leverage the prize money, in combination with funding from National Research Council Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, and continue research and development for its product.

“We will keep working hard until we get our product out!” said Mr. Pallager.

Prospre intends to grow its team by hiring a technical student for further app development.

“We are working towards the next major release of our app,” said Mr. Young. “We are really looking forward to adding some members to our team to create the best product we can.”

In memory of Dr. Mel Woodward

The MWC was created from a donation in 2017 by 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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