McGill Demo Days 2017 – Highlights from Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity for the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship. Beginning in Montreal, we took our most promising startups from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017 and the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 on tour to Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City over the course of September and October.

We were delighted to return to Boston and San Francisco for the second year in a row, hosting events while also reconnecting with McGill alumni in the area. We also added Toronto and New York City to the agenda this year.

McGill Demo Days 2017 in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City

A lot of progress has been made around entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill these past few years. By way of our McGill Demo Day events featuring a number of 5-minute pitches from our startup founders, we were excited to highlight this progress in person with McGill alumni in each of these cities.

At the core of these Demo Day events is our mission to find, teach and develop world-class entrepreneurs at McGill. Knowing that we can help build world-class companies at McGill — to truly be world-class, we recognized that we had to get out of Montreal, providing exposure for our startups to the different markets and opportunities that exist outside of the city, beginning with Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and New York City.

Renjie Butalid, Associate Director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, hosting McGill San Francisco Demo Day held at the DocuSign offices – September 19, 2017

Similar to last year, leveraging the McGill Alumni Network was a valuable component for our McGill Demo Days 2017 tour. Site visits and roundtable discussions with McGill alumni in each of the cities proved to be just as valuable for our founders as the Demo Day events themselves.

In addition to the events, it was great to have the opportunity to have conversations in a more casual roundtable setting with experienced and successful McGill alumni entrepreneurs, where they shared their respective stories and lessons learned along the way with our startup founders. We also had a number of meetings lined up with investors and VCs in each city as well.

Packed house at McGill Toronto Demo Day hosted at the Shopify offices – October 3, 2017

Overall, we had ten teams from this year’s cohort of the McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Dobson Cup participate in McGill Demo Days 2017.

Learn more about their experiences below and check out the videos of the pitches from some of the teams. Videos of the pitches were filmed at McGill New York City Demo Day on October 10, 2017 held at the Spring offices in Manhattan.

McGill Boston Demo Day – September 14, 2017

Our first stop following McGill Montreal Demo Day on September 12 was Boston.

While in Boston, we had the opportunity to meet with Steve Kokinos, a Finalist Judge in the McGill Dobson Cup and Co-founder and Executive Chairman of technology company Fuze.

At Fuze, a technology company with over 700 employees in multiple cities worldwide, Steve is responsible for corporate strategy — we had the opportunity to talk with Steve about the challenges of building your team as your company grows and scales exponentially.

We’d like to thank McDermott Will and Emery for hosting McGill Boston Demo Day 2017 in their offices. We’re also grateful to the McGill Alumni Association of Boston who provided a lot of support with outreach to local McGill alumni in the Boston area.

Stuart Paap (left) of the McGill Boston Alumni Association and Jennifer Bock (right), lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery, at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

1. Saccade Analytics

Saccade Analytics running a demo of their analytics platform at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

Saccade Analytics participated in the McGill Lean Startup Program 2016, emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Health Sciences Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017, and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Saccade Analytics aims to revolutionize the way doctors diagnose concussions and neurological disorders.

Watch Iman Haji, Co-founder and CEO of Saccade Analytics, pitch below.


2. Dialysave

Vivian Eberle, Co-founder and COO of Dialysave at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

Dialysave emerged as 3rd Place Winners in the Health Sciences Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Dialysave aims to provide widespread access to dialysis for patients suffering from End Stage Renal Disease, both locally and throughout the world. They are currently developing a Portable Dialysis Unit (PDU) that is designed to be wearable, which will allow patients to dialyze more frequently. Their PDU relies on a nanobiomaterial to absorb harmful solutes from patients’ blood, thus eliminating the need for dialysate.

Watch Anya Pogharian’s TEDxYouth@Montreal Talk below from 2016, Co-founder and CEO, where she talks about the motivation behind starting Dialysave.


3. 2D-CrystaLab

Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, Co-founder and CEO of 2D-CyrstaLab at McGill Boston Demo Day 2017

2D-CrystaLab participated in the McGill Lean Startup Program 2016, made it to the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 in the Health Sciences Track, and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

2D-CrystaLab is an innovative nanobiomaterials company that is changing the way implant infections are treated and prevented. Through a product line comprising of dental implant cleaning gels and bone healing gels, their company aims to drastically reduce the rate of implant infections as well as provide a safe and reliable way to treat these ailments.

Watch Ashwaq Al-Hashedi, Co-founder and CEO of 2D-CyrstaLab, pitch below.

Group photo at McGill Boston Demo Day – September 14, 2017

McGill San Francisco Demo Day – September 19, 2017

Following Boston, we then headed to San Francisco where we had a series of meetings scheduled with a number of investors and McGill alumni entrepreneurs ahead of our main event on September 19, 2017.

Our first stop was at Mizuho where we had the opportunity to meet with Chris Nam and his team, Managing Director and Head of Internet and Digital Media Investment Banking for Mizuho’s North American banking business.

Sonder (formerly known as Flatbook) hosted us at their San Francisco offices where we had a roundtable discussion with Francis Davidson, Co-founder and CEO of the company. Sonder has gone on to become one of the breakaway successes of the McGill Dobson Cup where they competed in 2012.

While they never made it to the Finals of the McGill Dobson Cup in their year, that did not stop Francis nor his co-founder Lucas from continuing to build their company, raise a seed round of funding followed by a Series A, all the while growing to become one of the fastest growing hospitality companies in the world.

While in the Bay Area, we also had the opportunity to meet with Aaref Hilaly, a McGill alum and partner at legendary Silicon Valley VC Sequoia Capital. At their Menlo Park offices, we were able to get into a discussion around Aaref’s experience as both a founder and entrepreneur (CenterRun and Clearwell) prior to his joining Sequoia.

Following our initial series of meetings, we then made our way to the DocuSign offices in San Francisco, our gracious hosts for McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017.

We’d also like to recognize the McGill Alumni Association of Northern California for their help with outreach to local McGill alumni in the Bay Area. As well as to Montréal International for their support for McGill San Francisco Demo Day.

Paul Chesser, Assistant Vice-Principal, Development at McGill University flew in from Montreal to provide opening remarks at McGill San Francisco Demo Day on behalf of the university.

Paul Chesser, Assistant Vice-Principal, Development at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Maher Ayari, Program Manager of the McGill X-1 Accelerator for two summers in a row (and currently a 4th year BCom student at Desautels), also provided opening remarks at the event where he talked about the diversity of this year’s McGill X-1 Accelerator cohort.

Maher Ayari, Program Manager, McGill X-1 Accelerator at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

We’re extremely proud to have had a diverse cohort this year in terms of gender, disciplines, academic experiences and industry verticals. In particular, out of the 25 entrepreneurs in this year’s McGill X-1 cohort, two-thirds of the founders were women.


4. Pelcro

Michael Ghattas, Co-founder and CEO of Pelcro at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Pelcro graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Pelcro is a platform for digital media publishers to offer a sustainable AdFree experience and generate new recurring subscriber revenue from AdBlock users. In a few short months, Pelcro has helped a number of websites regain over 100% of their revenue lost due to AdBlock while continuing to generate recurring revenue for them.

Watch Michael Ghattas, Co-founder and CEO of Pelcro, pitch below.


5. Kiffin

Natasha Alani, Co-founder and CEO of Kiffin at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Kiffin participated in the inaugural McGill Lean Startup Program 2015 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Kiffin is building a farm-to-office food experience. Their mission is to sustain workplaces everywhere with the highest quality and most sustainable food services. To date, Kiffin has generated over $200K in sales, serving over 5000 customers with 50 percent gross margins.

Watch Natasha Alani, Co-founder and CEO of Kiffin, pitch below.


To wrap up the evening, we were delighted to welcome Terry Cowl, Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, to provide closing remarks on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Terry Cowl, Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner with the Consulate General of Canada at McGill San Francisco Demo Day 2017

Group photo at McGill San Francisco Demo Day – September 19, 2017

We would also like to thank Ned Taleb, a McGill alum and serial entrepreneur now based in San Francisco, for hosting our entire cohort of startup founders for a celebratory dinner following McGill San Francisco Demo Day.

The following morning, we made our way to the Palo Alto headquarters of IDEO for the second year in a row where we met with McGill alum Griffin Thomson, a Principal Designer who gave us a tour of their premises. Similar to last year, Griffin then ran a design thinking workshop for our cohort to wrap up our tour at IDEO HQ.

Our last stop in Silicon Valley was Fundbox, where McGill alums Matt Brightman and Ben Gruber led a roundtable discussion with Fundbox Founder and CEO Eyal Shinar. Fundbox is a technology company that focuses on helping small business owners overcome occasional short-term cash flow gaps. Fundbox has raised USD $108 million over 3 rounds of funding to date.

McGill Toronto Demo Day – October 3, 2017

Following San Francisco, we then headed to Toronto. Our first stop in the city the day before McGill Toronto Demo Day, included attending the TakeOver Innovation Conference. It was great to see Montreal representation at the conference, largely by way of Montreal-based Element AI having a strong presence throughout the conference.

Following the TakeOver Innovation Conference, we then headed to the DMZ at Ryerson University to learn more about what our peers at other Canadian education institutions were doing to help build and support the startup and entrepreneurship ecosystems in their city.

Shortly before the main event on October 3, we made our way to MaRS in the early afternoon, where we got a tour of this world-class urban innovation district located in the heart of downtown Toronto, allowing entrepreneurs access to corporations, investors, mentors, university institutions and labs to test their concepts.

We’re grateful to Shopify for hosting McGill Toronto Demo Day in their offices. We were also strongly supported by McGill Alumni Relations with organizing the event, including event logistics and inviting alumni based in Toronto to attend — thank you!

Part of the team that brought together the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017: (L-R) Maher Ayari, Program Manager; Sarah Barker, Program Relations Coordinator; Renjie Butalid, Associate Director – at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

We also had the pleasure of welcoming the Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management, Isabelle Bajeux, who flew in from Montreal to provide opening remarks at McGill Toronto Demo Day on behalf of Desautels and the university.

Dean Isabelle Bajeux, Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

6. Basilisk

Michael Di Genova, Founder and CEO of Basilisk at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Basilisk competed in the McGill Dobson Cup 2015 and graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Basilisk is an education technology company that aims to optimize study time and rethink the learning experience by empowering students to create their own practice questions. Not only do students recall the material better, they also understand the concepts better.


7. YUMiBOX

Zoey Li, Co-founder and CEO of YUMiBOX at McGill Toronto Demo Day

YUMiBOX emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Small & Medium Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2016, while also taking home the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize that same year. They also graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

YUMiBOX makes it easy, simple and delicious to eat a variety of whole grains. With a vision led by a team of dietitians to help people switch away from refined carbohydrates toward healthier complex carbs. Healthy eating done the right way with clean label, wholesome food products.


8. Will+Zack

Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO of Will + Zack at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Will+Zack competed in the McGill Dobson Cup 2017 where they made it to the Finals. They also graduated from the McGill X-1 Accelerator 2017.

Will+Zack makes made-to-measure professional womenswear. Their tagline? Their fashion house only makes one size. Yours.

Watch Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO of Will+Zack, pitch below.


9. Audible Reality

Matt Boerum, Co-founder and CEO of Audible Reality at McGill Toronto Demo Day 2017

Audible Reality emerged as 1st Place Winners in the Innovation Driven Enterprise Track of the McGill Dobson Cup 2017.

Audible Reality is what happens when you get two PhD students from the McGill Schulich School of Music (who also happen to be Grammy and Emmy-award winners) teamed up with an IP lawyer. Audible Reality develops revolutionary 3D audio imaging technology to capture and deliver fully immersive, life-like sound from any source.

Watch Matt Boerum, Co-founder and CEO of Audible Reality, pitch below.


Group photo at McGill Toronto Demo Day – October 3, 2017

The next day, a number of our startup founders spent the morning with former McGill Dobson Cup participant and Y Combinator alum Charlie Feng at the Clearbanc offices in Toronto.

McGill New York City Demo Day – October 10, 2017

Our final stop on our tour was New York City. We were excited to meet with a number of McGill alumni while we were in the city. This included a roundtable discussion with Aaron Stern, a McGill alum and now Director at investment management firm Fir Tree Partners.

This was followed by a meeting with Mergen Davaapil, another McGill alum and Managing Director, Americas & Europe for Third Bridge. Third Bridge provides private equity firms, hedge funds and strategy consultants with the information that they need to understand the value of their investment opportunities. We were also joined by Brett Holloway, Vice President at Fortress Investment Group.

The last meeting of the day included a visit to the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, one of NYC’s leading tech accelerator programs. Macromeasures, a Finalist in the McGill Dobson Cup 2014, graduated from the ERA NYC program in the summer of 2015.

We’re grateful to Spring for hosting our McGill NYC Demo Day event in their offices in Manhattan.

Spring is one of the fastest growing e-commerce platforms that connects retails and shoppers using a direct-to-consumer sales model. Originally from Montreal, we were welcomed to the space by Nick D’Urbano, Head of Global Partnerships for Spring.

Nick D’Urbano, Head of Global Partnerships for Spring, at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

We were again delighted to welcome Dean Isabelle Bajeux from the Desautels Faculty of Management who provided some opening remarks at McGill NYC Demo Day.

From L-R: Shonezi Noor, Co-founder and CEO, Will+Zack; Isabelle Bajeux, Dean, Desautels Faculty of Management; Natasha Saviuk, Co-founder and Creative Director, Will+Zack at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

Stephen Harper, Director of London-based Strathmore Investments Ltd., and long-time Finalist Judge of the McGill Dobson Cup and supporter of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, also provided opening remarks at McGill NYC Demo Day.

Stephen Harper, Director of London-based Strathmore Investments Ltd., at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

10. BG Therapeutics

Will Lepry, Co-founder of BG Therapeutics at McGill NYC Demo Day 2017

BG Therapeutics emerged as winners of the inaugural L’Oréal-Dobson Startup Award in this year’s McGill Dobson Cup 2017.

BG Therapeutics aims to treat dentin hypersensitivity (sensitive teeth) at a much faster rate by using their patent-pending process for making bioactive glass. Other applications also include using their product as a bone filling material for small bone defects including those for dental surgery.

Watch Will Lepry, Co-founder of BG Therapeutics, pitch below.

Group photo at McGill New York City Demo Day – October 10, 2017

Where it takes a village to raise a child, to truly build a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation at McGill requires an entire ecosystem of people and organizations connected with the university to contribute and play a role. At the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and on behalf of our founders and startups, we would like to thank everyone involved for making McGill Demo Days 2017 a success.

We’re excited to continue this important work of entrepreneurship ecosystem building at the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship that extends well beyond the walls of McGill and Montreal and truly leverages the 250,000 plus network of McGill alumni around the world.

We look forward to returning to these cities again next year and perhaps, adding additional cities to our roster.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship and our programs in a mentorship capacity, want to host an event in your city in the upcoming year, or provide support directly to help us build capacity as the centre for entrepreneurship at McGill, feel free to reach out at entrepreneurship@mcgilldobson.com or on Twitter @dobsoncentre.


We would like to acknowledge the support of the John Dobson Foundation for its support of the McGill X-1 Accelerator and McGill Demo Days.

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Renjie Butalid

Renjie Butalid is the Associate Director of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship where he oversees the Dobson Centre’s entrepreneurship and mentorship programs including: the McGill Lean Startup Program, the McGill Dobson Cup, the McGill X-1 Accelerator program, and The Dobson Chronicles.