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7 Engineering Startups to Watch

In honour of Global Entrepreneurship Week, a celebration of innovators and job creators who are changing the world, we’re spotlighting 7 McMaster Engineering startups to watch.

Our startups are improving and saving lives; revolutionizing Canada's agriculture industry; finding solutions to managing big data; transforming visual storytelling; and making designer professionals' lives easier.

Lumago

The person behind it: Melissa Houghton, Master of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation graduate at the W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology
Why it's one to watch: The company specializes in smart, customizable technology for the global aquaponics industry. With aquaponics, Lumago is improving greenhouse profitability and Canadian food quality, food security and sustainability. Unlike hydroponics systems, which use artificial chemicals as fertilizer, aquaponics systems use organic fish waste. They’re also thought to produce larger plants which are less susceptible to disease.
Awards and Accolades: At a Forge start-up competition, Houghton secured $20,000 in funding and at the 2017 Lion’s Lair Pitch Competition, she accepted a third place prize and more than $40K in cash and in-kind services.
Inspired to change Canadian agriculture: “There are hundreds of greenhouses not 15 minutes from McMaster, but you’ll very rarely find a Hamilton tomato or a Hamilton cucumber unless it’s summertime,” Houghton said. “Canadian greenhouses just aren’t economically competitive. I thought to myself, ‘what if I could fix this?’”

PRSM Medical 

The people behind it: Michael Takla, Rotimi Fadiya, Prateek Mathur and Shivad Bhavsar, all graduates of McMaster’s Electrical and Biomedical Engineering program
Why it's one to watch: PRSM Medical developed, The sKan, a device that assists physicians and the average person in detecting melanoma by creating a thermal map on the region of interest on the skin. The cost-effective technology is made up of 16 temperature-sensitive components called thermistors that look for areas of significant temperature difference on the skin, which may indicate risk of melanoma.
Awards and Accolades: The team received the prestigious 2017 James Dyson Award and $50K to support the development of The sKan. They also won $10K at the 2017 Forge@MAC Student Startup Competition.
What started as a final year class project: “We came across the issue of skin cancer and how technology hasn't had the same impact on its diagnosis as it has on other fields in medicine,” Mathur said. “We found research that used the thermal properties of cancerous skin tissue as a means of detecting melanoma. However, this was done using expensive lab equipment. We set out to apply the research and invent a way of performing the same assessment using a more cost-effective solution.”

20/20 OptimEyes

The people behind it: Heather Sheardown, Professor, Chemical Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Ophthalmic Biomaterials and Drug Delivery and Frances Lasowski, Chemical Engineering graduate and Business Development Engineer
Why it's one to watch: The company has created an improved eye drop technology for ocular diseases. The eye drop allows for less frequent dosing, which is more convenient for patients, and reduces side effects of current treatments. The technology targets dry eye disease (DED), glaucoma and ocular infections. Instead of multiple drops a day, which can be difficult for for elderly patients to apply, they only have to use it twice a week.
Awards and Accolades: The company won $30,000 at the 2017 Forge@Mac Student Startup Competition. Research was also funded by the 20/20 NSERC Ophthalmic Materials Research Network and The Boris Family Foundation.
What motivated the launch of OptimEyes: “Part of what Heather has been trying to do, and what interested me in working with her, is trying to stay on the application side, which is why I went into engineering, said Lasowski. “I wanted to help somebody as opposed to adding to theoretical know-how. We work on these drug-delivery systems ultimately to get them into people and help people.”

Nix Sensor Ltd.

The people behind it: Matthew Sheridan, Mechatronics Engineering and Management graduate 
Why it's one to watch: Nix’s powerful colour sensors provide accurate colour measurement of any surface and sends the data to an accompanying smartphone application. Once a colour is scanned, users can match to more than 28,000 colours in the application’s library, discover colour harmonies, save colours by project or room, incorporate digital colour values in their projects, and even locate the nearest paint shop. Their unique and patented shape blocks out all ambient light, which allows for its industry leading accuracy.
Awards and Accolades: Matt Sheridan was named Ontario’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015. The design is also a two-time winner of the internationally recognized 2018 German Design Awards for Excellent Product Design.
Support from their city: “Our success could not be possible without the most passionate employees, the best mentors, and most of all, Hamilton, the most startup friendly city in Canada,” said Sheridan.

Healthcare Innovation in Neurotechnology (HiNT)

The people behind it: Ahmed Elmeligi and Jacob Jackson, Master’s of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation graduates and Nawal Behih, Master’s of Engineering Design alumna.
Why it's one to watch: The W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology startup is developing a wearable point-of-care monitoring device for patients who are at high risk of having a stroke. If a patient has a stroke during sleep, the device wakes the patient up and alerts the healthcare provider so that treatment can be administered more effectively.
Awards and Accolades: The Ontario Brain Institute’s ONtrepreneurs program awarded the team with $50K. They also earned $30K from seed funding and local pitch competitions.
What W Booth taught them: “The Master’s of Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation program taught us the customer development model of entrepreneurship,” said Jackson. “Talk to your customers, validate your assumptions, pivot as necessary and let the market steer your course. This is the only effective way to approach entrepreneurship in the 21st century and without it you would waste a significant amount of time and money.”

Flixel

The person behind it: Mark Pavlidis, Software Engineering and Management alumnus
Why it's one to watch: Software tools that enable photographers, videographers and digital marketers to tell stories using a new visual medium known as cinemagraphs. The software sandwiches frames of film into one static image, and allows the user to mask and unmask specific portions to reanimate. In other words, users can pick and chose which section of the image will spring back to life.
Awards and Accolades: Cinemagraph Pro, one of Flixel’s most popular tools, is a 2014 Apple Design Award winner. Since launching in March of 2012, the company's family of apps has earned more than 500,000 downloads.
Intended for the average user: "It looks very technical, but this product was designed with the average user in mind," said Pavlidis. "We wanted to develop a simple process, so users could make a great image even more dynamic."

Cinnos Mission Critical Incorporated

The people behind it: Hussam Haroun, Master’s Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation alumnus; Lotfi Belkhir, Associate Professor, W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology; and David K. Potter, Associate Professor, W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology
Why it's one to watch: The data centre solutions company is developing a smart system tools that analyzes the performance of data centres in real-time, to help make decisions for reducing energy usage and predict system faults and failures.
Awards and Accolades: The research centre received a $1M grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to develop their system.
Revolutionizing data centres: “This project revolutionizes data centre operations by continuously monitoring its performance,” says Ghada Badawy, the project’s Principal Research Engineer. “The analytics algorithms we are developing will use the performance metrics to automate infrastructure management decisions and fault diagnosis in real time.”