Conestoga news

June 12, 2024 9:14 AM

Conestoga entrepreneurs win Community Venture Award

Three Conestoga entrepreneurs have been honoured with the Equitable Life of Canada Community Venture Award. The winning companies are HOOD, co-founded by Briana Burton and Sunraj Sharma, and ContractApp, founded by Taylor Francis.

(Pictured L-R) Briana Burton, Sunraj Sharma and Taylor Francis have been honoured with the Equitable Life of Canada Community Venture Award.

The awards, valued at $1,500 each, were launched by Equitable Life of Canada in 2021 to recognize companies participating in Conestoga’s Venture Lab incubator, which operates out of the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective based at the college’s Kitchener - Downtown campus. Recipients are chosen for their commitment, passion and perseverance as they strive to launch businesses that provide valuable contributions to the community.

“We greatly appreciate the ongoing partnership with Equitable Life of Canada and the resources they are providing to budding entrepreneurs,” said Rose Mastnak, director, Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective.

“The awards provide winners with valuable recognition and a financial boost, allowing them to further invest in their beneficial work for the community and acting as an example that other entrepreneurs can aspire towards.”

HOOD is a mobile application that provides a simple and efficient carpooling experience primarily targeted to post-secondary students. By targeting students, HOOD aims to offer a needed service to a community that often has challenges with commuting to and from work and school on a tight budget.

“The funding will help support the development and maintenance of our cloud infrastructure, enabling us to scale and deliver a stable experience to our users,” said Burton.

Burton, a graduate of the Software Engineering Technology program, and Sharma, a graduate of the Software Engineering Technician program, also plan to spend some of the funds on awareness campaigns for HOOD.

ContractApp is a digital platform for creating and communicating business documents, aiming to provide transparency and legal protection for business transactions. Business owners and clients can each create a profile and a legally binding contract with the help of ContractApp’s artificial intelligence-based technology. The contracts can also be completed and sent using the platform’s encrypted e-signature tool.

“The funds will be spent on purchasing a slot at the Fergus Lion’s Home Show, as well as purchasing advertising materials for future trade shows,” said Francis, a student in the Woodworking Technician program, who added that he also plans on using some of the funds to develop additional features for the ContractApp platform.

Open to Conestoga students and alumni, the Venture Lab incubator supports the development of early-stage startups. Featuring small cohorts that start three times a year, entrepreneurs develop and validate their business idea over the span of 15 weeks, with some eligible companies allowed to stay up to one year. Participants have access to one-on-one coaching and workshops with industry mentors, Conestoga faculty, and subject matter experts, as well as college and community new venture development resources.

Venture Lab's next cohort begins in September, with applications closing on July 25.

The Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective empowers and inspires students and alumni to successfully participate in the Waterloo Region entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem by providing multiple pathways for engagement that include developing a new business, becoming a corporate innovator and providing support systems to the ecosystem. In addition to the Venture Lab, the collective also offers programming through the Sales Lab and the Gig Lab.