Top 5 Contestants
I was always frustrated as a student. As someone who loves learning, I hated going to school. I knew that the world was changing faster than ever, and I knew that what I was being taught was going to be outdated by the time I graduated.
It frustrated me so much that I told everyone that one day, I would change the education system. After 12 years of learning entrepreneurship by trial-and-error, the company we're building now has the opportunity to make that kind of impact.
We see a world where learning and education can be fun, meaningful, and connect with the real world. We believe that real learning only happens when there's a purpose and you're enjoying what you're doing.
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Nearly 5 billion pounds of food goes to waste in our country every single year. 45% of that are fruits and vegetables. Associated waste such as energy and water costs us upwards of 100 billion dollars annually. Worse yet farmers are paying money for waste disposal because we have beauty standards for our cucumbers. Strict cosmetic standards at the retail level has created waste on farms and contributed to the rising price of produce. At FoodFund we’re challenging the notion of perfection and building an online subscription-based platform that connects imperfect produce from farms and distributors directly to households within the community. In less than two years we’ve grown our subscriber count over 900% created 15 jobs in the London region and generated over $600 000 in revenue.
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Goldilocks Sustainable Goods
4 years ago our fearless leader (Amy Hall) was volunteering on a Shark Conservation project forcing her to confront the uncomfortable reality of plastic waste that has over run the ocean. She went to work on how she could reduce her own use of plastic in her life and then help others do the same. She then came across the concept of the beeswax food wrap. With her degree in art history and a passion for design she came up with the idea to source beautiful fabrics and incorporate them into a fun experience on her journey towards a zero waste lifestyle. It didn't take long for her to get serious traction at the local markets which quickly grew to an large online customer base and over 70 retailers across Canada and the US!
I founded HigherEdPoints.com after a 25 year career in the education loyalty and student funding industries. My direct experience each industry allowed me to navigate the business and technical challenges of setting up this innovative source of educational funding.
Motivation to tackle this challenge came from my experience running a scholarship matching company and the stories from students who couldn't access student loans (parents income too high) and couldn't win merit-based awards (because they didn't have 95% averages). This group made up 60% of students (dubbed the 'Middle Sixty')--those with funding gaps large enough to prevent them from attending and/or completing their education.
A pivotal conversation was with one student who had just graduated from teacher's college with over $80 000 of student debt. She estimated it would take her more than 10 years to repay her loans. That's just not OK.
Knowing that there were literally billions of dollars in loyalty currency sitting in Canadians wallets I set out to create an access point to mobilize this renewable source of currency for all students.
My proudest career and life accomplishment is creating over $1.6M in educational funding changing the trajectory of thousands of students.
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About two years ago InStage co-founder, Nicole Mclean was practicing for a Toastmaster presentation she’d been dreading for weeks…and she was driving her husband crazy. Despite wanting to use his new virtual reality (VR) headset, Michael Caley had instead listened to his wife repeat her speech countless times, and it was becoming clear to him that there was something wrong with the way she was practicing. She wasn’t becoming anymore confident in herself, and he was worried that even if she went through with her Toastmasters presentation she’d never feel ready to do what she really wanted to do, present in the workplace. He began thinking the problem was that she wasn’t getting any closer to knowing how to handle the stress of actually presenting, because she wasn’t practicing in an environment that felt real. But how else are people supposed to practice for presentations? That’s when it dawned on him that his virtual reality headset could be the solution. Michael had already seen how powerful a VR experience could be after an ultra-realistic underwater simulation triggered his friend’s fear of being underwater. He reasoned that if VR could trigger an emotional response like that, then it could be used to overcome it. So he spent the next few weeks researching how to make virtual reality software, invested his own money into hiring a developer to build Nicole a simulation where she could practice, and incredibly it worked! When Nicole put on the VR headset and stood in front of the virtual audience Michael had created it felt real to her. On top of that Michael had included a couple of surprise features. He used the system to monitor her performance and track how many times she said filler words like “umm” in addition to a number of other metrics she could use to improve. Suddenly she was, faster than she ever had. Michael realized the implications immediately. He began thinking of all the other situations where this type of practice would be valuable. Traditional methods for practicing job interviews, business pitches, keynote speeches, sales meetings, and even classroom presentations all had the same flaws, and he knew that VR could be the solution. So together with recently hired engineer Imran Mouna, and his wife Nicole the small team founded, InStage.
Now just over two years later, InStage has paying customers in a number of world class secondary and post secondary schools including The University of Toronto, Schulich School of Business, Toronto Prep School, and Holy Trinity School. InStage has also provided paid services to numerous Fortune 500 companies including RBC, Scotiabank, Sunlife Financial, and Manulife in addition to working with The Department of National Defence on their Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) program. InStage was recently awarded first place in Amazon’s Education and Training Simulation competition and currently operates out of IBM’s i3 accelerator space as a company leveraging its cutting edge artificial intelligence technology.
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