Ten finalist teams took the stage to speed-pitch their business ideas to a panel of expert judges at last week’s Desjardins Startup Prize Pitch Competition. 

The first-place prizes for early-stage and late-stage categories were awarded to two startups that are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to revolutionize their industries. 

SilicoLabs, a software startup co-founded by Benjamin Alsbury-Nealy, CEO, and Kyla Alsbury-Nealy, COO, placed first in the early-stage category.

The startup’s ‘no-code’ software enables users to quickly and easily create extended reality (XR) experiences. These experiences capture behavioural and biosensor data to help better understand and predict human and AI behaviour. 

The SilicoLabs founding team presents their business pitch on stage at True Blue Impact Day.

“With the prize money, we will run more hands-on demos, accelerate our marketing campaign, and expand our community of users for greater collaboration,” says Kyla Alsbury-Nealy, COO of SilicoLabs.

In the late-stage category, Deaf AI received both the $40K first-place prize and the Dongjun Wang Family True Blue Prize (People’s Choice Award).

Deaf AI is training machines with artificial intelligence to do sign language to improve the experience of communicating with those who are deaf or have hearing impairments. “Our mission is to serve deaf people to have better experiences in public life through AI-based solutions,” says co-founder Azadeh Bojmehrani.

Leah Cowen, Vice President, Research and Innovation, at U of T, and Marilyn Horrick, Senior Vice President, of Desjardins Group, present the first-place prize to Mehdi Masoumi and Azadeh Bojmehrani, co-founders of Deaf AI.

“Winning these prizes validates our mission to bring accessible and inclusive communication to the deaf community, says Bojmehrani. “The funding will be used to further develop our AI technology through our partnership with SIRT Center at Sheridan College.”

The competition was judged by a panel of experts in the tech and innovation space, including Mehdi Bakhty, managing director of tech and innovation at Desjardins Group, Eva Lau, founder and partner at Two Small Fish Ventures and Mike Murchison, founder and CEO of Ada.

“The real prize is to build something big at the frontier of hard problems and I think that’s what we can all celebrate here today”, shared Murchison in his opening remarks.

Desjardins Startup Prize judges: Mehdi Bakhty (Desjardins Group), Eva Lau (Two Small Fish Ventures), and Mike Murchison (Ada).

The six winning startup teams represent the diverse innovation ecosystem at U of T, with affiliations to campus accelerators including UTEST, Health Innovation Hub (H2i) and ICUBE.

2023 Desjardins Startup Prize Winners

Early-Stage Category

1st Place: SilicoLabs

Accelerator: H2i / UTEST

2nd Place: Laetech

Accelerator: H2i

3rd Place: Specifix Dx

Accelerator: H2i

Dongjun Wang Family True Blue Prize (People’s Choice): Laetech

Accelerator: H2i

Late-Stage Category

1st Place: Deaf AI

Accelerator: H2i / UTEST

2nd Place: Shiphrah Biomedical Inc.

Accelerator: H2i

3rd Place: Inwit

Accelerator: ICUBE

Dongjun Wang Family True Blue Prize (People’s Choice): Deaf AI

Accelerator: H2i / UTEST