Skip to main content

UPstart Venture Challenge

$60k Prize Fund

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

Looking to compete?

The next UPstart Venture Challenge will be held in December 2024.

Moderator & Judges

Event Moderator

Elspeth Murray

Associate Professor, Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Social Impact
and CIBC Faculty Fellow in Entrepreneurship

Elspeth Murray is an associate professor at Smith School of Business with expertise in strategy, the management of change and entrepreneurship. She is the co-author of the bestselling book Fast Forward: Organizational Change in 100 Days, with Peter Richardson. She advises a number of tech companies and is working on a number of digital transformation projects focused on creating an analytics culture. Prior to joining Smith, she worked for several firms including IBM and Canadian Tire.


Nicole Murphy

Co-Founder & CEO, Tall Size

Nicole has a decade of experience working as a Marketer for some of the best e-commerce and tech companies in the country such as, FreshBooks, Bell Canada, The Source and InVision. As a tall woman herself, Nicole saw an opportunity to pair her technology background and marketing expertise to fill a painful void in the fashion world, by creating the first-ever online fashion marketplace for tall women alongside her childhood friend, former teammate, former WNBA player and Canadian Olympic Athlete, Kayla Alexander who stands at 6'4".


Bob Peel, MBA'99
President and Founder, Happy Boss

Bob is a serial entrepreneur and business coach. He started his first business at 18, merged with his father and his partner in 1987 at Brafasco, which he helped grow to 25 locations, 180 employees, and $40 million in sales. Since 2005, bob has coached over 225 small businesses as the Happy Boss of, and has made several Angel Investments, including Chickpea Pasta, and OrderEase and is serving as President of the Meaford Chamber of Commerce. Bob is the husband of Janis, father to Jeff (Jennifer) Stef and Mike, and doting Grandad to Eva and Reid.

Andy Segovia, MBA’21
Founding Partner, Landa Club

Andres was born in Croatia, though raised in Mexico City for most of his life. He holds two majors, one in Finance and one in Economics from the University of Texas in San Antonio. He also holds a dual MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School of Business and Queens University’s JR School of Business. Andres has worked in the Venture Capital industry in five continents for major capital funds such as Lightrock Capital out of Liechtenstein and local funds in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Also working for startups in Africa and Latin America, he has raised over $100 million dollars in equity and debt and worked in investor relations as well as roles as COO, CFO and CEO. He has worked in industries such as aerospace and defense, real estate, hotels and tourism, restaurants and bars, F&B, banking, amongst others. He also has extensive knowledge in the Private Equity and Investment Banking industries conducting multiple M&A and LBO transactions through cross-border transactions in Latin America exceeding hundreds of millions of dollars.

Marissa McNeelands, MMAI’23
Founder & CEO of Toast

Marissa McNeelands is the Founder & CEO of Toast, a company that uses AI to help advocate for greater gender diversity in tech. After spending almost, a decade in the tech industry as a Data & AI Product Leader, Marissa found herself more often than not being the only woman in the room. Struggling to hire women into roles on her teams, and gain buy-in from the men around her to focus on gender equity, Marissa founded Toast to empower women in tech to get what they want, while giving hiring leaders a tangible way to increase gender diversity in their talent pool. Marissa has a Master’s of Management in Artificial Intelligence from Queen’s University and was recently featured as a 2023 Champion of Change by Glory Media. Toast was recently featured in Forbes Magazine and won the Women in IT DEI Initiative of the Year.

Chris Sinkinson, MBA’11 and David Sinkinson, MBA’13
Entrepreneurs & Podcast hosts of Startup Different

Brothers Chris Sinkinson, MBA’11, Artsci’02, and David Sinkinson, MBA’13, Artsci’11, are proven SaaS entrepreneurs. Their bootstrapped startup, AppArmor, helped keep people safer with innovative mobile apps and emergency notification solutions for individuals across the globe. In February of 2022, their company was acquired by US competitor Rave Mobile Safety for tens of millions of dollars. Later in 2022, Rave and AppArmor were acquired for over $550 Million by Motorola Solutions.

Now Dave and Chris have launched Startup Different - a podcast to help show you that there’s another, better way to build your business. Startup Different debunks startup myths, tackles some of the toughest challenges and gives you the tools to build your business. These down-to-earth founders prove making a successful startup has little to do with unicorns or ten-baggers and instead focuses on a proven, different method for startup success.