Three new businesses win at UPstart Venture Challenge

Posted on December 9, 2019

Kerri-Lynn McAllister, BCom'07, founder of Pawzy, and colleague Emma Harris, receiving the top prize at Upstart Venture Challenge.
Kerri-Lynn McAllister, BCom'07, founder of Pawzy, and colleague Emma Harris, receiving the top prize at Upstart Venture Challenge.

Toronto, Ont. – The fourth annual UPstart Venture Challenge, Dec. 3, saw eight teams pitch their startups to a panel of Smith and Queen’s alumni in the hopes of winning a share of the $55,000 prize.

Teams had just four minutes to make their case, followed by an additional six minutes to field questions from the panel of judges. The competition is organized by Queen’s Venture Network, an initiative of the Smith Centre for Business Venturing, and was hosted at LoyaltyOne in Toronto. 

Judges were free to divide the prize money among as many teams as they wished. In past years, several teams were awarded, while in others a single team was given the entire pot.  

This year, three teams won a share. They are:

Pawzy, an online pet platform connecting modern pet parents to one another as well as to relevant resources and services. It was founded by Kerri-Lynn McAllister, BCom’07, and was awarded the top prize of $30,000.

• The Gist, a sports news and media company created by women for women. Its founders are Jacie deHoop, BCom’14, Ellen Hyslop, BCom’14, and Roslyn McLarty, BCom’14, GDA’14. They received $15,000.

• Forvera Health, a mobile vision-care marketplace, connecting optometrists with organizations. The venture was started by Newton Zheng, BCom’19, and Jonathan Ge and won $10,000. 

Pawzy’s McAllister said the win gives her company “a big head start” in its growth plans. Pawzy is preparing to raise money from angel investors, and “we plan to use the combined funding to engineer our vet clinic finder, launch in select cities across North America and kick-start marketing and sales,” she said.

Acting as MC and moderator for the event was Elspeth Murray, associate dean of MBA and masters programs at Smith.

Judges this year were: Lisa Orr, BCom’01, AMBA’16, founder of LaBroga and Orr Etiquette; John See, Artsci’79, MBA’81, special advisor, strategy and associate coach, Teal & Co; Peter Willson, Sc’92, chairman and CEO of Willson International; and Rachel Zimmer, BCom’10, VP, global customer engagement at Sgsco. 

Thanks to this year's event sponsors: Arterra Wines Canada, Naughty Otter, LoyaltyOne, FUTUREPROOF and Air Miles.