There was a buzz in the room.
Amidst the cacophony of indistinct chatter, Daft Punk playing in the background and the clinking of pints, you wouldn’t have guessed that just a day before a cloud of pessimism hovered over Newfoundland and Labrador at the announcement of the provincial budget. It was an unconventional setting, Bitters Pub and Restaurant, where people from academia, government, industry organizations, and entrepreneurs were found under one roof. It was the place to be and mostly everyone responsible for innovation in the province was in that very room. What was missing, however, was the doom and gloom that clouded over the province in the last 24 hours. Instead, there was optimism in the air and the energy was only going to rise as 9 companies were about to pitch their business ideas.
This is what the Evolution program is all about, the promise of prosperity. A program designed to help early stage startups in validating their ideas, the Evolution program started with much fanfare this past winter. There were 16 companies – the largest cohort thus far – accepted into the program and after 8 weeks, it concluded on a high note with Pitch & Pick. Nine of the 16 companies were chosen to pitch for the event and at the end, the audience picked the top three most innovative ideas.
This year’s winners include 3rd placer Dashall, an online platform that connects drivers and customers for deliveries (i.e. food, goods, etc.). In addition, Inventico and its track driven wheelchair took second place – wooing people with its prototype unveiling — while Spectroleum Labs took the overall prize with its water sensing technology.
Not to be outdone by the pitchers, a number of generous audience members even pitched in for the cash prizes awarded! All together, a total of more than $2500 was dolled out to the winners and all the pitchers; it was a sign that the local entrepreneurial community was full of optimism and that innovation will not be stifled by pessimism.
There certainly was a buzz in the room and it was a glimpse of what Newfoundland has to offer and a promise of things to come.