Rural founders showcase tech and innovation at pitch competition

Social Innovation

On October 12, Teccconnect in Lethbridge played host to the Rural Founders in Tech Pitch Competition, marking the fourth installment of the BIPOC Rural Tech Founders event series by Innovate Calgary.

In this spirited competition, five finalists, all hailing from rural backgrounds, showcased their groundbreaking companies that pushed the boundaries of technology and innovation, while addressing real-world challenges.

The panel of judges was treated to a diverse array of pitches.

Among the highlights were presentations on voice analysis technology capable of detecting on-the-job impairment, a pioneering company crafting mushroom-extract supplements, and innovative AI solutions geared towards improving water treatment facilities.

Gregory Robinson, the CEO behind Mycos, emerged the winner, securing the first-place position in the competition and earning him a well-deserved $3,000 cash prize. Robinson’s company focuses on supplements derived from the power of mushrooms.

Reflecting on his experience, Robinson expressed his gratitude, emphasizing that the win was not just an accolade but a profound honour, given the intense competition he faced and the people he met.

“The competition was fierce,” said Robinson. “Meeting fellow rural founders in such a warm and supportive environment was a delightful experience, fostering connections that might not have been possible otherwise.”

Learn more about Mycos

Robinson’s journey with Mycos exemplifies the spirit of rural entrepreneurship–a spirit that was celebrated and nurtured throughout the event. Jerome Morgan, senior innovation manager and project lead for the BIPOC Rural Tech Founders series, emphasized the challenges faced by rural tech founders and underscored the competition’s significance in providing them with a platform to shine.

“Building a tech business is hard and being a rural founder has additional challenges you must overcome,” said Morgan, adding that rural communities must regularly have to contend with economic decline, population loss, and limited infrastructure, despite contributing a great deal to Canada’s economy.

The importance of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in these regions cannot be understated.

While Edmonton and Calgary lead in Alberta, Morgan says it’s essential to acknowledge the growing inequality between Canada’s largest cities and its midsize and smaller cities. Rural communities, historically facing limited access to new services, and must increasingly turn to innovation, entrepreneurship, and rural resiliency to shape and support their future.

“This is why we worked with our local regional partners in Lethbridge and area to help spotlight and support rural companies,” said Morgan. “Our aim is always to strengthen innovation relationships and partnerships across the province.”

Charlee Sereda, Program Manager at the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta, echoed Morgan’s sentiment, highlighting the importance of making events like this accessible to entrepreneurs in rural regions.

“Often, we see a lack of visibility and accessibility in the rural regions for events and programs that generally take place in the large urban centres of the province,” said Sereda. “Bringing this event out of the big cities and to our founders is so important to show them that the same opportunities can be available in their regions, and they can feel comfortable accessing support.”

As for Robinson of Mycos, he believes that taking part in pitch competitions prepares rural founders for the next stage of their ventures and provides an invaluable platform.

“Pitch competitions like this, I firmly believe, are indispensable.”

Congratulations to the runners-up:

Second place prize ($2,000) was awarded to Aum Patel of Vocalaiz, a company specializing in workplace safety using advanced algorithms to detect impairment through voice analysis.

Learn more about Vocalaiz

Tyler Bennett of Coagtech won the third-place prize ($1,000), pitching on the “Coagtech Advantage,” the use of machine learning (AI) to help improve water treatment plant operations.

Learn more about Coagtech

Other top pitchers included:

The finalists for the Rural Founders in Tech Pitch Competition. Pictured (from left to right): Tyler Bennett, Aum Patel, Brent Puchalski, Gregory Robinson, and Nifemi Ashani.

This event, the fourth of the BIPOC Rural Tech Founders event series, was proudly hosted by Innovate Calgary in partnership with Economic Development Lethbridge, BIPOC Foundation, MindFuel, APEX Alberta, Edmonton Unlimited, Elevate IP, RINSA, Rural Development Network and Centre for Newcomers.

The next BIPOC Rural Tech Founders series will be in partnership with Platform Calgary and be a celebration of newcomer founders and innovators. If you’d like to attend the Newcomer Founders in Tech Pitch Competition on November 22, 2023, or are interested in applying, please click on the links below.

Register to attend: Newcomer Founders in Tech Pitch Competition

Want to pitch? Apply here.

Application deadline is November 6, 2023

For more on the tech founders’ series, subscribe to our newsletter to be notified of the details when they become available and learn more about the Social Innovation Hub.

If you are looking to partner with us on other initiatives in the BIPOC Founders event series, connect with Jerome Morgan, Senior Innovation Manager, Social Innovation. 

Connect with Jerome Morgan