Lumen5, headed by CEO Michael Cheng (centre), an SFU SIAT alumnus—and early client of Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection— receives the top prize in this year's New Ventures BC competition.

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Company headed by SFU alumnus takes 2019 New Ventures BC top prize

September 24, 2019
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SFU alumnus Michael Cheng, CEO of Lumen5, a multi-million-dollar company that makes it easier for anyone to create speedy, “thumb-stopping” videos, is celebrating the company’s first-place finish in the 2019 New Ventures BC competition.

Shortlisted as one of B.C.’s 10 top new ventures, Lumen5’s creators netted the $105,000 prize, and will focus on taking their business to the next level.

A video creation platform powered by artificial intelligence, Lumen5 was designed to be a powerful storytelling tool that helps businesses drive online engagement. Anyone, even those without video editing experience or technical training can easily create compelling social videos in minutes.

“Almost 74 per cent of internet traffic comes from video content, and our goal is to make the creation of engaging video content easy for those looking to build their online audience,” says Cheng.

In just two years, Lumen5 has grown into a multi-million-dollar business with close to 400,000 users including such brands as Forbes, The Economist, Translink and the Daily Hive, without raising any capital.

Cheng, a graduate of SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), was one of the first clients of SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection program and worked with mentor Jim Derbyshire. His earlier venture, WittyCookie, remains active as a local company but Cheng has since moved on.

"I was first introduced to the power of mentorship at SFU through Venture Connection,” says Cheng. “When learning a skill or honing a craft, you seek out coaches and teachers—entrepreneurship is no exception. I've carried this important lesson with me all these years and I continue to actively seek out mentors as I tackle new challenges." 

A former participant in The Next 36 initiative, which annually supports a cohort of 36 new innovators from across Canada, he co-launched Sniply, which has since been acquired, and later started Lumen5 with the same co-founders.

Cheng has earned a slate of accolades that include being named a Top 30 Under 30 Innovator by B.C. Business Magazine (2014), a Future Leaders of Canada by Maclean’s Magazine (2013) and a Top 25 Under 25 award from the Surrey Board of Trade (2012).

Among the other 10 companies shortlisted for the award was Biointeractive Technologies, another of Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection’s alumni companies, and both co-founders are alumni of SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences. The company has created a gesture-recognition wristband and last year was accepted into one of North America’s biggest start-up accelerators, Techstars.

New Ventures BC is a non-profit organization that recognizes, encourages, and supports entrepreneurship in BC’s technology sector. The annual New Ventures BC competition is the largest and longest-running tech competition in B.C., offering education, coaching and awarding $250,000 and prizes to BC startups.

According to event organizers, previous startups recognized in the annual competition have gone on to raise $380 million in financing and create 3,800 jobs.