The new program, called University of Toronto Early Stage Technology (UTEST), is part of a growing ecosystem of incubators and commercialization support services at U of T, including the newly-launched Banting and Best Institute. UTEST is unique among campus incubators in that its companies receive start-up funds—$30,000 each in this inaugural year—and because it accepts companies in the very earliest stages of idea generation, before they're ready for traditional incubators.
Kurtis Scissons, co-director of UTEST, says that creating a software company is tricky.
"The time between the initial idea and getting the product to market has to be quick because the market is so competitive—it's only a matter of time before someone else comes up with the same idea," said Scissons. "It takes weeks, if not months, to apply for traditional sources of seed money. By providing an initial infusion of funds and guidance, UTEST accelerates the process."
Professor Paul Young, U of T's vice-president, research and innovation, believes that UTEST is the latest example of how U of T supports its student researchers.
"UTEST enriches the student experience by introducing them to entrepreneurship at the same time that it contributes to a culture of entrepreneurship in Canada," Young said.
Open to students, faculty members and recent graduates, the inaugural UTEST cohort includes six companies:
- CrowdMark collects and distributes the labour of marking papers in massive online open courses, which are exploding in popularity and do not lend themselves to traditional evaluation methods. By creating incentives to mark papers, CrowdMark empowers students to contribute to the assessment process;
- CoursePeer is an academic talent management program that links students with each other, with professors and with potential employers, using social and classwork interactions to automatically assess students' creativity, problem solving and soft skills;
- Granata Decision Systems helps business and consumers make complex, data-driven decisions by gathering preferences and evaluating decisions to maximize value when group decisions have to be made;
- Thotra has developed software that transforms hard-to-understand speech into fluent, easy-to-understand speech in the speaker's own voice, making it easier for people with speech-language disorders to progress in their therapy and for speakers of English as a second language to improve;
- ShotLst allows digital or physical objects to be annotated, facilitating collaboration by groups who don't work in the same physical space, such as teams working on construction projects;
- Whirlscape has created an algorithm that allows mobile touchscreen devices to recognize even the most imprecise letter entries, allowing keyboard size to shrink and making it easier to enter text on mobile devices.
Provided by University of Toronto
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