UBC receives Entrepreneurial Powerhouse award after students’ strong performance at Apex Business Plan Competition


Pictured (left to right): UBC students Gareth Kaczkowski, Rashmi Prakash and Aaron Janz
Photo credit:
Joy Cummings, University of New Brunswick (UNB)

Posted 2020-02-11

Courses like New Venture Design and Technology Entrepreneurship, offered jointly by UBC Sauder and UBC Applied Science, influence student entrepreneurs to push their business ideas forward.

Three UBC students travelled to Fredericton, New Brunswick for the BMO Financial Group Apex Business Plan Competition on January 23 and 24, 2020. The aspiring entrepreneurs, who made up two different student teams, delivered rousing presentations that earned a first-place win in the graduate category and third place in the undergraduate category, respectively.  

UBC also received the Entrepreneurial Powerhouse Award in recognition of the strong overall performance of the teams during the two-day competition at the University of New Brunswick’s Wu Conference Centre.



Rashmi Prakash won first place in the graduate level competition for her presentation on Flutterlet
Photo credit: Joy Cummings, UNB

Master of Biomedical Engineering student Rashmi Prakash was the sole member of the winning graduate level team. Her 12-minute presentation on the pregnancy product Flutterlet garnered the attention of the panel of judges. 

Flutterlet is a fetal activity tracker in the form of a belly band that uses wireless sensors to detect fetal movements. It also includes a mobile app that records and provides insights on the data. The product uses patent-pending technology and is currently in the research and development stage. 

Though the idea first emerged two years ago, it wasn’t until last September, when Prakash enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Thinking for Applied Scientists course, that she realized Flutterlet’s commercial viability because of the peace of mind it may offer mothers. “After taking the class, I understood how to turn this interest into a business,” she says. 

Prakash is now participating in Technology Entrepreneurship, a graduate-level course that places business and STEM students together in pursuit of tech product concepts. Her class team is now moving forward with the fetal activity concept. 

As the first-place winner, Prakash was awarded a $5,000 cash prize, which she plans to invest into research. Though the money will be helpful, she says the true value of the plan competition was access to some of the country’s most brilliant business minds.

“My favourite part about the whole experience was the advice from judges who were CEOs, angel investors, and venture capitalists,” says Prakash. “They provided some really good insights into resources, how to run the business and how to get reoccurring revenue that I hadn’t considered.”



Gareth Kaczkowski (left) and Aaron Janz (right) placed third in the undergraduate category for their pitch on Stone Oyster Biotechnologies
Photo credit: Joy Cummings, UNB


Engineering Physics student Aaron Janz and Integrated Engineering student Gareth Kaczkowski placed third in the undergraduate competition with their presentation on Stone Oyster Biotechnologies. They presented on behalf of other members of the team who didn’t make the trip to Fredericton, including UBC students Adriano Sela, Seham Abdul-Karim, Shinina Muthiora, and Stephanie Wu.

They pitched the idea that oyster shell waste from restaurants could be repurposed to create attractive, high value artificial stone countertops for sustainably-minded consumers. 

“Oyster shells are a huge contaminate to soil and water systems when they are disposed in landfills,” says Kaczkowski. “We went through a bunch of research about the environmental impact of this problem.”  

With a supply network that is essentially free, and a product made from 100% renewable materials, Janz and Kaczkowski say they have created the minimum viable product but are still validating the technology and conducting materials testing.

As for their experience at the competition, the undergraduate team echoes Prakash’s sentiments that it was the fellow presenters and panelists who made the event so valuable.  

“It was a ton of fun. It was an awesome opportunity to work on our public speaking and pitching skills,” says Janz. “We met a lot of interesting new people and expanded that network.” 

As part of their minors in Entrepreneurship, both Janz and Kaczkowski are taking the New Venture Design course offered jointly by the Faculty of Applied Science and UBC Sauder, which helped them build out their idea. 



Pictured (left to right): DJ (David) Miller, Fraser Pogue, Gareth Kaczkowski, Aaron Janz and Rashmi Prakash

On Thursday, January 30, the student teams presented DJ (David) Miller, UBC Sauder lecturer and administrator for both undergraduate New Venture Design and graduate Technology Entrepreneurship, and Fraser Pogue, Adjunct Professor at UBC Sauder and entrepreneur in residence with the university’s entrepreneurship@UBC program, with the Entrepreneurial Powerhouse Award for UBC. 

“I'm very excited to see students across UBC performing well in innovation competitions. Winning the Entrepreneurial Powerhouse award just shows how well UBC attracts and creates entrepreneurial talent,” says Pogue, who served as advisor to the undergraduate team. “Congratulations to the winning students!”