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McMaster Engineering startup tuning up for Dragon's DenJune 17, 2020

This summer, a team of engineering physics students dare to enter the Den with their guitar tuning startup, 2unify.

An innovation that started as a final year Capstone Project, 2unify is an automated hands-free guitar tuning stand that performs automatic tuning by mechanically tuning the pegs on a guitar.  

The team is now on a fast track towards success with multiple pitch competition wins under their belts including the Forge Summer Academy $5000 fund, full prototype funding from the First Institute of Canadian Inventors, an invite to Dubai’s Digicon Mena in September and a $5000 trip to JEC Korea 2020 in November (Seoul, South Korea). 

In a Q&A with Michael Jobity, 2unify’s business & operations director, project engineer and a recent McMaster Engineering Physics & Management graduate, Jobity shares more on the startup, how the team landed a spot on Dragon’s Den, their strategies for pitching to the dragons and what the future holds for 2unify.  

Q: How did 2unify come to be?

A: Our team is comprised of some of the most brilliant people I have met. Since we are all in Engineering Physics or Engineering Physics & Management, we formed our group for the Capstone course ENG PHYS 4A06. Michael Salamaszek, coding wizard & all-things electronic, Ryan Ng, brilliant systems engineer & AI developer, Curtis Graham, Tony Stark’s son – robotics expert, Mitchell Wong, AI coder extraordinaire & business oracle, and me, Michael Jobity, business & operations director, project engineer. 

While sitting in the student centre, Ryan had mentioned that his friend was struggling to tune his guitar. This sparked the idea and we decided to make a device that could fully tune any guitar on its own.

While making the presentation on my laptop, the name 2unify (pronounced “tooni-fye”) popped into my head on the title page and it stuck. 2unify stands for two things: 2 cents accuracy (when measuring pitch) and the ability “to unify” art and science.

Michael Sa quickly created a rendered 3D image of our stand and we were on our way.

Throughout our Capstone course, we had three major milestones, namely, our module demo which showcased system functionality; integration demo, showcasing integration of components; and optimization demo, outlining superior operational functionality.

We worked really hard and those 3 am life chats bonded us as a team. Since we all dedicated so much time and effort putting in 30+ hours per week, we always had the startup framework in mind and we were fortunate to win multiple pitch competitions.

This brings us to where we are today. We are excited to be working with a large team of experienced mentors, founders, and business experts as we scale our company. We currently manage our milestones and project deliverables on a collaborative passion platform for student/industry projects called FlameOn

Q: How did 2unify get into the Den?

A: Co-founder, Mitchell Wong, noticed a posting on LinkedIn that referenced an upcoming series of Dragon’s Den auditions throughout Canada. One of the audition locations was at Hamilton’s McMaster Innovation Park for one day. Fortunately, our team had multiple pitch competitions lined up at the same time including the Forge Student Startup Competition, Idea2Life and Hax and we had already refined our pitch.

Mitchell and I arrived at the audition in the morning and while we waited for our turn to pitch to the producers, people kept asking us about our 2unify stand which was covered with a tarp and looked mysterious to other people who were auditioning.

This actually gave us an opportunity to practice our pitch multiple times in front of other founders, investors, and business mentors, before our audition.

We presented to two producers and answered several questions about our business model, technical background, and next steps for the company. We were then told that if we were fortunate to be selected, we would receive a call or email to follow-up. Mitchell and I felt confident about the audition and genuinely appreciated the experience, regardless of the results.

About a month later, we were invited to a call with the producer and received the news that we were selected to film for the new season!

Q: When do you start filming and what will filming will look like?

A: With the hope that COVID-19 is managed and cases have dropped, we will begin preparing for our pitch in July. The actual day of the pitch will be at the end of the summer.

Our team has started brainstorming different ideas, as we are committed to making a memorable presentation.

Our entire team is working full-time every day, connecting with members in the music space, strengthening our business model, and developing a sustainable manufacturing process for our stands.

Q: What dragons will you be pitching to?

A: In no specific order, the dragons that will be on this year include Michele Romanow, Lane Merrifield, Vincenzo Guzzo, Arlene Dickinson, Manjit Minhas, and Jim Treliving. We are honestly so fortunate for this opportunity and are excited to meet all of them!

Q: What are some of 2unify’s strategies going into the Den?

Great question! We are definitely working on all aspects of the business and ensuring that all of our numbers are backed by robust and concrete methodologies.

Our goal is to be authentic, genuine, and in the present moment while pitching.

Ryan, Mitchell, and I love giving presentations and trying to make people smile! We look forward to planning a memorable presentation and practicing until we begin dreaming of what we have rehearsed!

Q: What are your future plans for 2unify?

A: We are fortunate to have interest from several music institutions and will begin running pilots within the next month.

After analyzing the customer interaction process and monitoring feedback, we will begin to slowly expand to subsequent music stores, schools, and studios throughout Ontario.

We already started developing a manufacturing process to help us match our current demand and will begin setting up pre-orders for when our next set of stands are built and ready for distribution.  

We have also started looking at influencer agreements and are connecting with artists and concert venues who would like to use our device.

Acquiring a sales team and running effective marketing campaigns to reach a larger audience are high priorities. We aim to make 2unify a household name and work with both businesses and artists who want to revolutionize the #musictech space!

Q: How has McMaster supported you with 2unify?

A: The Engineering Physics department at McMaster has been super supportive throughout our entire journey.

Dr. Matthew Minnick was our instructor for the ENG PHYS 4A06 course and he consistently provided ample feedback, consulting, and support for each of our technical endeavours.

Our TA, Sameer Reodikar has seen the entire process unfold from the initial idea and has been very supportive each step of the way.

The Faculty of Business informed us about upcoming pitch competitions and connected us with valuable business mentors. One of our mentors, Rahul Panikar, connected us with his team in Dubai and the DeGroote Business School in Burlington. 

All of our current mentors at the Forge and Innovation Factory  have really impacted our business in a significant way. We are forever thankful for the support and encouragement!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am currently fully dedicated to scaling 2unify with my co-founders. We are all musicians at heart and love new technologies.

I used to play as a live pianist at Edens Café Mediterranean restaurant and love producing.

As a recent graduate of the Engineering Physics & Management program, I am excited to bring my passions of music and technology together to distribute a novel product that feels like the future.

I am very excited for what the future brings and thankful for the memories that McMaster has given me.