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Startup support

Mel Woodward Cup invests $40,000 in student entrepreneurs

By Susan White

Student-led companies focused on medical and automotive technologies were the big winners at 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 a software that provides motor and non-motor assessments for people with Parkinson’s disease. Entrepreneur and Parkinson’s patient Gord Genge is the company’s co-founder.

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

A screen shot from the Mel Woodward Cup shows Bronwyn Bridges on the top left and Gorg Genge on the top right. On the bottom of the screen is an image of a cheque for $25,000.
From left, Bronwyn Bridges and Gord Genge, founders of PragmaClin Research, are the winners of the 2022 Mel Woodward Cup.
Photo: Submitted

Milestone for MechMonkey

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

“We are very excited about the upcoming milestones,” Mr. 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, each valued at $2,500, were created this year and funded by the Fry Family Foundation.

PragmaClin won Fry Family Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for Women and Non-binary Leadership and Cannaby received the Fry Family Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for an Early-stage Idea.

Cannaby, founded by master of science student Laura Mateo and partner Saioa Arrizabalaga, aims to educate users on safe cannabis consumption through a customizable dosage calculator.

Five finalists

The sixth edition of the Mel Woodward Cup, which is hosted by the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE), saw five finalist teams compete virtually before a panel of judges located in Boston, Mass., New York, N.Y., and St. John’s, N.L.

The other finalists are below.

  • CORSphere: bridges the gap between machine maintenance activities and high-level decision-making about those activities (founders: engineering student Sazied Hassan and science students Marc-Andre Brien and Tahrin Maruf) ;
  • InVerte: creates adaptable weighing scale technology to reduce inventory and labour costs for restaurants (founders: science student Johan Arcos Mendez, business student Harshal Deshpande and Neil Nordeje); and
  • Unbarred Fitness: creates well-being and exercise tools for home fitness practitioners (founders: Marine Institute student Idiamin McKinney and Ebbetien Bullard).

Plans for growth

“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, MCE director. “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.”

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

MechMonkey is gearing up for the launch of its app and is offering customers a 20 per cent discount on their next vehicle service using coupon code MECHMONKEY20.

Barath Sundar, co-founder of MechMonkey Solutions, is pictured in a screen shot from the Mel Woodward Cup. He's on the left-hand of the screen. An image of a cheque for $15,000 is on the right.
MechMonkey Solutions, co-founded by Barath Sundar, is the $15,000 runner-up.
Photo: Submitted

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

“As a Newfoundland and Labrador startup, we want to give back to this ecosystem,” said Mr. Sundar. “By leveraging the prize money, we’ll soon start hiring our tech team and business onboarding team here in St. John’s.”

PragmaClin will also use the prize money to grow its 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 gain venture capital.

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

Up next, they’ll be running a clinical trial next year to validate the software, called Parkinson’s Remote Interactive Monitoring System (PRIMS).

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

Highest number of applicants to date

Forty-three teams applied to the Mel Woodward Cup this year, the highest number of 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 entrepreneurs participating since its inception.

The Mel Woodward Cup was created from a donation 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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