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Two Mac Eng startups win top prizes at The Forge Startup Survivor Pitch Competition October 14, 2021

This past Thursday, four Mac Eng startups pitched their innovative startups for a chance to win more than $30K in prize money.

Phosphosens, founded by Vinay Patel, a Biomedical/Medical PhD student, won second place and $9K and Kinisi Technologies, founded by Michelle Ragany, Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MTEI) student, took home third place and $5K. 

Startup Survivor is a 4-month innovation program and pitch competition hosted by The Forge consisting of McMaster students and recent alumni. This year’s competition showcased 10 early-stage novel and scalable startups, including eight Mac Eng-affiliated startups, who have been working around the clock this summer to launch and scale their businesses. 

Each startup competed in multiple challenges to define their business problem, understand their target market and customer, and develop a solution to form a basis for their scalable venture, all with help from mentors and workshops along the way. 

The top five teams competed in “The Startup Survivor Pitch Competition”, for the chance to win additional prize money and pitch their startup to a panel of judges, serving as “Startup Survivor’s Tribal Council.” Four of the five teams consisted of McMaster Engineering students and recent alumni.

“We are very excited about the teams that participated this year, as we are seeing more depth and quality in the thoughtfulness and interest from students who want to make a difference by addressing problems in healthcare and the environment to create social and economic impact,” said Gay Yuyitung, Acting Director of The Forge.

“Although the pandemic has forced us to change to a virtual format, the level of engagement and enthusiasm from both student entrepreneurs and our mentor network continues to grow and we look forward to building on this in the future."

"I am equally impressed by the diversity of this year’s cohort, which included 50 per cent women entrepreneurs and startups with interdisciplinary teams crossing four different Faculties across the university,” she added.

Learn about the 10 Startup Survivor challengers and top 5 finalists:   


Dahlia | “The Forge Startup Survivor” Grand Prize ($15,000)

Co-founded by Christopher Juman (Master of Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization, Health Science Faculty, 2021) and Bindi Mehta (Biomedical Engineering at Ryerson University)

Dahlia is developing a feminine hygiene product that combines the utility of a menstrual cup with the familiarity of a tampon. The menstrual cup is loaded into a tampon-like applicator that can both launch and remove the cup, providing comfort and convenience to the user. 

"Our experience with the Forge Startup Survivor program has been incredibly valuable. We entered the competition looking to gain guidance on our first steps in launching our business while also hoping to gain some funds along the way," said Christopher Juman, co-founder of Dahlia who received the top award for the night. 


PhosphoSens | Second Place ($9,000)

Founded by Vinay Patel (PhD Biomedical/Medical, Faculty of Engineering, 2022)

PhosphoSens is developing a handheld device that simplifies phosphorus detection using a chemical-free technology enabling wastewater treatment plant operators to measure phosphorus within 10 minutes, without the hassle of chemical preparation. 

“As a researcher, I understand technology, but I am new to formulating business strategies and plans,” said Patel. “The Forge Startup survivor program provided me with the opportunity to network with a great peer network and mentors who were always ready to support us when needed.  I would recommend the program to anyone who is looking to start their entrepreneurship journey.”


Kinisi Technologies | Third Place ($5,000)

Co-founded by Michelle Ragany, Nazli Bostandoust and Edelstein Ruben Junior Biack Mbombe (The founders are all part of the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MTEI) program in the Faculty of Engineering)

Kinisi Technologies is developing a posture tracking wearable device that provides posture performance analytics for athletes, focused currently on rowers. 

“The Forge Startup Survivor program allowed us to experience being entrepreneurs facing real-life challenges and experiences while being supported within an academic setting,” said Biack Mbombe. “Working alongside other startups was fascinating and gave us a chance to learn from experienced founders and mentors.”


Grounded Collective | Top 5 Finalist & Social Buzz Award ($500)

Founded by Gurkeerat Gill (BTech, Faculty of Engineering, Alumnus 2020)

Grounded Collective aims to bridge the gap between everyday consumers and sustainable brands through an online marketplace that addresses the main pain points of consumers: price, time and fear of greenwashing. 


Protagonist Health |  Top 5 Finalist

Founded by Pallavi Dutta (MSc in eHealth, Health Sciences Faculty, Faculty of Engineering, DeGroote School of Business, Alumnus 2020)

Protagonist Health is a research-based concept of ecological momentary assessment, which is a real-time data gathering technique, to help you adopt healthy behaviours and reduce your risk of chronic conditions. This app will prompt you to provide data about yourself so that we can do the tough part; analyze and provide recommendations catered to your personal needs so that you can be the hero of your own health!

Bonus Challenge Award ($500):

Dahlia, Grounded Collective, and Kinisi Technologies. The Bonus Challenge Award is given to the company that earned the most bonus points throughout the Startup Survivor Summer program by doing additional activities to expand their network that would help build not only their venture but also supports the start-up ecosystem in Hamilton.


AiLights | Challenger 

Aidan Giangregorio (MSc in eHealth, Faculty of Health Sciences, Faculty of Engineering, and DeGroote School of Business, 2021)

Imagine you have two hours of availability tonight; you want not only to stream but also create clips from your content. You could either stream for two full hours and have AiLights, a product that revolutionizes highlight capture using AI and machine learning, automatically produce highlights, or you could spend an hour and 15 minutes gaming and 45 minutes on content creation. Why reduce the footage you can capture in that two hour period when you should be focusing on gaming. Now, you can rely on AiLights to ensure you capture all of your gaming highlights with no effort and have them readily available to post to the most popular social platforms.

Allegiant | Challenger 

Shaun Lee (BE in Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, 2023)

Allegiant’s mission is to create a more secure and safe community through a commitment to innovation, simplicity of use and customer security. We look to design an app that uses voice recognition to connect people with emergency services.

Jarvis Real Estate Solutions | Challenger 

Oksana Chunitska (B.Eng.Society, Faculty of Engineering, 2023)

A software application that allows tenants to submit work orders, provide details and convey times of availability to the property manager who can utilize all the information to facilitate the order at hand.

Misely | Challenger 

Jong Lee (MSc eHealth, Degroote School of Business, Faculty of Engineering, Health Science Faculties, Alumnus 2020)

New mothers find it very challenging to adjust to new lifestyle as parents while also recovering from deliveries at the same time. Misely will make this transition as easy and seamless as possible. Our platform will connect new mothers with interviewed, background-checked and top-rated professionals to make their postpartum period the most joyous and enjoyable time of their lives. Our services range from basic home care duties (cleaning, cooking, laundry) to professional massage and lactation support.

Technopic | Challenger 

Anastasia Koudrova-Wilkinson (BASc Human behaviour specializing in autism and behavioral sciences, Science Faculty, 2022)

The problem is that within the autistic community there are few resources for children to choose from when needing to learn how to communicate using a device. The resources out there are also currently unaffordable for many parents, they lack the ability to be used in all environments, and often takes the child very long to form a sentence. The app we are developing will be cheap, accessible on all devices and device providers, and provide recommendations on what to say based on past usage. The autistic community is currently craving for a new and improved communication device and this is it.