BC ’20 AquaHacking Finalists: What Are They Up To Now?

By Mélissa Dick
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It’s been 1 year since the Final event of the British Columbia 2020 AquaHacking Challenge in June 2020. After that event, the top 5 teams from that Challenge celebrated their wins (remember the awesome cheers from the #1 winning team, Ozero!?, they collected their seed funding awards, joined start-up incubation communities, and kept working on their water tech solutions that were first developed in the AquaHacking Challenge. Every team has stayed active and connected through the AquaHacking Alumni program, and you won’t believe what they’ve achieved in the past 12 months! Check it out.

What are some recent updates and developments in regard to your tech solution or business development?

Ozero Solutions:Immediately following our win at the AquaHacking BC Challenge, we invested the seed funding we won into completing our first prototype which we took on tour over the summer 2020 season offering demonstrations in over a dozen municipalities in Quebec, decontaminating over 250 boats along the way! These real-life beta-testing opportunities really allowed us to get a good understanding of our market and to augment our tech solution to a technology readiness level (TRL) of 7. In fall 2020, we finished the design of our prototype which will actually be rented by Memphrémagog Regional Country Municipality for summer 2021 and next summer too. We officially incorporated our business and have been completing the incubation program at l’ACET. We’re currently in communication with over a dozen other municipalities who are interested in our washing station, and we just signed a contract with Investissement Quebec. Things are going really well!

GAPSS: We officially incorporated our start-up in November 2020 with the help Lavery Lawyers with whom we won credits for services through the AquaHacking Challenge.

Above Atlantis: After the AquaHacking BC Final event, we joined the incubation program at SFU Venture Connections and added new members to our team. We learned more about the market we are targeting and continued working on our prototype. In summer 2021, we will be ready to reveal the initial version of our flood risk-based information system.

Elite A2Z Filters: In the months following the AquaHacking BC Final, we joined the UBCO Entrepreneurship cohort and continue to be active participants in the program.  

UniteAg: We are currently collaborating with policy experts to develop our prototype. We have a great opportunity to commence a pilot program in the coming year as our proof of concept.

What has your incubation experience been like, post-AquaHacking Challenge?

Ozero Solutions: The support from the AquaHacking team to identify the best incubator for our needs was huge. Once we decided that l’ACET was the right fit for us, we were accepted in under 2 weeks thanks to the conversations AquaHacking had helped initiate. Since starting incubation at l’ACET, we have been receiving support in all aspects of the world of start-ups.

GAPSS: E@UBCO has had a significant impact on our business journey over the past year. After months of customer interviews, competitive analysis, and hours of practicing pitches, we have earned ourselves a spot in this year’s QuickPitch finals which were held in March. We ended up winning 1st place and on top of that, our co-founders Jacob Sol and Cole White-Robinson won student Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

Above Atlantis: Being part of the SFU Venture Connections program has provided us a source of accountability and continuous mentorship. It has also given us access to counsellors and other startups undergoing a similar stage of development as us.

Elite A2Z Filters: Being part of the e@UBCO incubation program has been insightful and helped us make key decisions in changing our scope and really giving us a deeper knowledge of the business background. The mentorship connection to experienced individuals with marketing, incorporation law, and business moral.

UniteAg:Incubation at DDQIC has allowed us to learn from others as well as refine our own business pitch. We have also been exposed to novel ideas and exciting strategies through the incubation process.

How have you invested the seed funding you won through AquaHacking?

Ozero Solutions: We have invested most of our seed funding in materials to complete the fabrication of our first and second prototype. Without this monetary contribution, we would never have been able to do demonstrations tours in the summers and our technology would not be as advanced as it is today.

GAPSS: All of our seed funding will be leveraged through Mitacs and then directed completely towards product development and manufacturing for our pilot program. We have spent a very long time meeting requirements for the Mitacs research grant such as incorporation and Office of Research Services (ORS) approval but things finally seem to be in motion as our application has just gone in for official review. We plan to leverage all $15,000 of our seed funding from AquaHacking into a Mitacs grant.

Above Atlantis:We were able to channel the prize money into Mitacs internships for our founders who are also undergraduate students. This became a pathway to establish a relationship between SFU academia, SFU Venture Connections and our group. Through this arrangement, we were able to triple our funding, allowing for academic research into our concept, nestling into an incubator and adding more members to our team over the course of the winter of 2020.

Elite A2Z Filters:We invested it back into the company to further test, prototypes, and supplies.

UniteAg: We have invested part of our AquaHacking seed funding award to set up the UniteAg website. The goal is to use the other portion in financing our pilot program.

What is the biggest thing your team has learned?

Ozero Solutions: At the start of the AquaHacking BC Challenge, we were a bit hesitant because English is our second language and we thought we may meet some challenges in terms of language and communication. However, the way the Challenge was organized in terms of being very inclusive allowed us to be much more comfortable in our second language. This showed us that often, the language barrier is often an obstacle that we place in our own subconscious.

Above Atlantis: We’ve really learned how important it is for us to be patient and diligent in developing market insight, because, ultimately, how well we design our solution to meet market needs is what will influence the use and longevity of our solutions.

Elite A2Z Filters: The biggest thing we learned was how to build a strong business background and important considerations for protecting intellectual property.

What are your next steps?

Ozero Solutions: The following big steps for Ozero Solutions include signing the sales contract in partnership with Investissement Quebec, which will allow us to install 2 stations in a Quebec municipality in the summer of 2021, implement our intellectual property strategy (4 patents in writing), search of potential new clients for the next summer and, finally, put in place a marketing strategy for our website and our social media networks.

GAPSS: As soon as our Mitacs research grant has been approved, GAPSS will begin a 6-month research and development phase in which we intend to exit with a marketable product. Upon completion of R&D, we will begin our first pilot program at Reed Point Marina, the largest marina in BC.

Elite A2Z Filters:Our next steps include further research, setting up pilot projects, and intellectual property considerations.

Any special remarks you’d like to share?

Ozero:The coaching we have received through incubation at l’ACET in terms of commercialization (Dominic Belhumeur), communications and marketing (Olivier Nadeau), and intellectual property (Jean-Sébastien Brière) has been extremely helpful.

GAPSS: We are grateful for to the business mentorship of Grant Lawrence and Alexandra Nuth as well as the rest of the e@UBCO team.

Above Atlantis: Since departing from the AquaHacking Final, we have come a long way in orienting our team as a business. It is with the collective effort of our team, sponsors from the AquaHacking community and the welcoming nature of the professionals in the field of flood management, that we have been able to develop insight into the market and procure the resources to quickly invest into value driven prototyping. During our time in the incubation program at SFU Venture Connectionsà have been under the guidance of the wonderful Shannon Bard, who has been very resourceful to us through her mentorship and continuous guidance.

Elite A2Z Filters: Special thanks to Jude Brunt from Purppl accelerator.

UniteAg: We are so thankful to have this unique opportunity, a way to protect water quality with smarter farmer engagement.

How can people reach out or learn more about your work?

Ozero Solutions: Visit our website and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates.

GAPSS: We are about to release a website to provide updates throughout our R&D and pilot phases which will be published shortly. Stay tuned for the official release! 

Above Atlantis: We welcome you to follow us on LinkedIn for our future announcements or reaching out to us directly through our website. 

Elite A2Z Filters: You can reach us through our social platforms: Facebook and Instagram. 

UniteAg: To learn more you can easily contact us through our website.