Students win $25,000 in entrepreneurship case competition

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By Heidi Lee

It was a night filled with huge wins and new beginnings for Ryerson startups fighting for $25,000.

Companies Travelot and mettleAI won $25,000 respectively in the 2019 Slaight New Venture Competition on Mar. 19.

The Slaight New Venture Competition, funded by the Slaight Family Foundation, is an annual event that aims to foster entrepreneurship at Ryerson Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) by offering two winners prize money.

Six finalists pitched their startup to a group of judges from TRSM and industry professionals from the business world.

Fourth-year business technology management (BTM) student, Abdullah Memon, was the lead design for mettleAI—a system designed to assist opiate and alcohol-dependent individuals in recovery.

The need for these types of resources is still there, according to the drastic numbers. The Public Health Agency of Canada released a report stating that opioids caused the death of over 9,000 people in Canada between January 2016 and June 2018.

Founder Razi Syed, a former BTM student, said he suffered from addiction back when he was in high school, which inspired him to start this company.

“I was addicted to several drugs for two years. My body and mental health [were] deteriorating,” said Syed. “I felt like I had no support.”

“I hope this system would ensure other people are not feeling the same way on their journey to recovery,” said Syed, who is currently studying computer science at Harvard University.

Syed said the team hopes to use this money to further develop the technology of mettleAI and build an advisory team while following their mission and values.

Photo: Joseph Mastromatteo

“We have experience on the patient side but we are lacking experience on health-care,” he said. Syed added the money earned from the competition will help fund learning more about this industry through medical conferences.

Travelot provides a platform for travellers wanting to effectively sell their non-refundable plane tickets, said the company’s human-centred designer, Tania Bawa, to a panel of judges.

Bawa said the non-refundable tickets belonging to Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada and other airlines, are actually transferable. These usually only require a name change by paying a small amount of additional fees.

Samarth Arabastani, co-founder of Travelot and fourth-year electrical engineering student, said the ultra-low-cost-carrier model is a growing business.

Travelot launched its beta prototype platform four days before the competition. Arabastani said the crew’s first step is to grow their platform.

“Our goal is to get at least 1000 users and see how they behave,” he said. “The money will be used to enhance our beta prototype.”

He said they will use the remaining amount to help build the final platform.

“It might not be enough but we could get the final platform started and would be one step closer to deliver the service.”

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