UPstart Venture Challenge 2018

UPstart Venture Challenge, a pitch competition led by Queen’s Venture Network, has been created to accelerate success and give alumni and students the opportunity to present creative business plans to a panel of experienced judges. Event attendees, including potential investors, will also be given the opportunity to take an advance look at up-and-coming Queen’s/Smith entrepreneurial ventures.

Be Part of the Audience

Register to join in an exciting evening of pitches as well as the opportunity to mix and mingle with like-minded people during the networking session.

Application to compete in the 2018 UPstart Venture Challenge is now closed. Be part of the evening by registering to attend and support your fellow entrepreneurs.


  • Tuesday, December 4, 2018
  • 5:30pm – 9:00pm
  • Loyalty One, 351 King Street East, Second Floor Atrium, Toronto
  • Complimentary

Register to Attend



Tuesday, December 4, 2018
5:30pm Registration and Networking
6:15pm Welcome and Launch of a New Initiative
6:30pm Pitch Competition
8:30pm Networking and Winner(s) Announcement

Criteria to Submit

  • Can articulate the vision of the business clearly and concisely
  • Proven research and market validation including a strong understanding of the total addressable /service available/serviceable obtainable market
  • The business has a prototype or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and has some market traction
  • A strong team with proven core competencies – advisor team is an asset
  • Can clearly demonstrate the business revenue model and profitability
  • Clearly establish what the money will be used for

Rules and Guidelines

  • To enter, you must be the founder, co-founder or have an equity share in the business and a Queen’s faculty/staff, alumni or a full/part-time student enrolled in an academic program at Queen’s University.
  • One submission per individual or company is permitted.
  • Business Plans should be submitted using the one-page Lean Business Model Canvas. A three-minute executive summary video pitch must accompany the plan.
  • Submissions are protected in the spirit of non-disclosure, and all materials will be treated as confidential. Only judges and select members of the organizing committee will have access to submissions. Materials will not be distributed to any others without the written consent of an entrant team. No other provisions are made to protect intellectual property
Download business canvas model Download guidelines

Application Process

All application guideliness are contained in the attached document. Please read carefully!

Moderator and Judges

John See

John See, MBA’81
Board Chair, Recognia Inc
Board Chair, TD Direct Investing International
Smith Advisory Board

Demonstrating a rare combination of strategic, operational and motivational skill sets, John has worked successfully in startup private companies, large-cap public entities, voluntary sector organizations, both regulated and non-regulated, at the CEO as well as Board Chair levels. During a career spanning more than 3 decades, living and operating on multiple continents and geographies, he developed capabilities and competencies evolving from traditional business environments and in-person interactions to those dominated by electronic and digital channels and media. John began his career with international Corporate and Investment Banking assignments for TD in Houston, New York, and London. In 1995, he became President of Green Line Investor Services (now TD Waterhouse). For many years, John was a member of the TD Wealth Operating Committee. After retiring from TD in 2012, John remains involved with the organization as Chair of its offshore direct investing businesses and serve as an independent Director of privately held Recognia, Inc. He is past Chair of Appleby College, a leading independent school, former Vice Chair of the YMCA of GTA and continues to serve on the Queen's School of Business Advisory Board. In 2009 I was honoured to be inducted as the RCAF's Honorary Colonel for 437 Squadron, 8 Wing Trenton. University degrees include a B.Sc. (1979) and MBA (1981), both from Queen's.

Jason Capello

Jason Capello, BCom’96
Chief Investment Officer, Merchants’ Gate Asset Management LP

Jason is the Chief Investment Officer of Merchants’ Gate Asset Management LP, a global long-only fund investing in public equities. In addition, Jason manages his family office which primarily invests in real estate, small growth companies and various lending vehicles. Prior to founding Merchants’ Gate Asset Management LP in 2015, Jason was a Co-Founding Partner, Chief Executive Officer and Portfolio Manager of Merchants’ Gate Capital LP. Jason holds a Bachelor of Commerce (with Honors) in Finance and Accounting from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and is currently a member of the Smith School of Business Global Council.

Jennifer Renda

Jennifer Renda
Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Jennifer is a serial entrepreneur with extensive knowledge of the Technology and Consumer Electronics industries, where she has more than 15 years of experience. Following a successful exit, she founded her most recent company, which collaborates with OEMs to execute after-sales functions within North America. Jennifer has grown her investment portfolio to include primarily MedTech and early-stage Life Sciences opportunities, where she aims to maintain an active investor role. She is a member of the York Angel Investors network which provides a supportive linkage between investors and entrepreneurs seeking early- and mid-stage capital. Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Toronto and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business with a focus on Entrepreneurial Studies, Finance, and Strategy.

Dave Jackson

Dave Jackson, BCom’91
President, Hydropool Hot Tubs and Spas

Dave is President of Hydropool Inc., having grown the company since 1995 into Canada’s largest manufacturer of Hot Tubs and Swim Spas. Hydropool is the largest industry manufacturer outside of the USA and the second largest portable swim spa manufacturer globally distributing through over 350 dealer partners in 40 countries. Dave has been Hydropool’s President since 2005. Dave acquired 50% of the company in 1997. Since 1995, the Hydropool team has grown from 14 employees to 350 employees today with operations in Canada, France and the United Kingdom. In June of 2017, Dave sold Hydropool to Jacuzzi Brands and he continues as Hydropool President, and also leads the global Swim Spa business for the companies. Dave graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from Queen’s University’s School of Business in 1991, where he was honoured to win the Comm’74 Award, the Commerce Award and the Bews Award. Dave’s and his family reside in Oakville, Ontario. Dave is married to Carrie and together they have children Madeline (19) and Jacob (16). Dave and his family are avid sports enthusiasts. In 2007, Dave was a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Competition and in 2015 he was Awarded the KPMG Quantum Shift Award as one of Canada’s Top Entrepreneurs. Dave loves Entrepreneur’s and he has over 25 Angel Investments, providing capital, advisory services and support to dozens of Entrepreneurs in Canada and the US over the past 15 years.

Jennifer Pollock

Jennifer Pollock, BCom’11
Director of Finance and Operations,

Jennifer is the Director of Finance and Operations at, joining the company in 2016. is an award-winning financial product comparison platform used by millions of Canadians to help them choose the best mortgages, credit cards, banking accounts, insurance, and more. Jennifer has been integral to a number of key milestones, including a $12 million Series A financing, expanding the company's headcount by over 100%, and continuing successful annual financial growth.

Prior to joining, Jennifer was an Audit Manager at EY in their Private Mid-Market group, where she earned her CPA, CA designation. During her time at EY, Jennifer worked with a broad range of companies, including those in the automotive, real estate, technology, and retail industries. Jennifer also completed a secondment at EY Los Angeles, working on the audit of DirectTV following the acquisition by AT&T.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Jennifer is passionate about giving back to her community. She is currently a Board Member for the SummerWorks Performance Festival, a position she has held since 2014. Jennifer also enjoys travelling, reading, and discovering new restaurants.

Jennifer graduated from the Smith School of Business in 2011.


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