Empower Operations, winners of the Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize: (l-r) George Cheng, COO, Empower Operations and graduate student in SFU’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE); Gary Wang, CEO, Empower Operations and MSE professor, Iain Begg, mentor-in-residence, SFU Venture Connection; and Geoff Groos, lead developer, Empower Operations and undergraduate student in SFU’s School of Computing Science.

Applied Sciences team win top prize at 2015 Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition

March 05, 2015

Empower – a Simon Fraser University venture led by mechatronic systems engineering (MSE) professor Gary Wang and students George Cheng (MSE) and Geoff Groos (computing science) – netted first place at the 2015 Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize.

The competition, presented by SFU Venture Connection in partnership with Coast Capital Savings, was held at SFU’s Segal Graduate School of Business on Feb. 11.

Prizes of $3,000 and $1,500 cash were awarded to Empower Operations and second-place TerraTap Technologies, recognizing their entrepreneurial excellence and the success of their growing, stable companies.

This has been the annual competition’s biggest year, with a total value of more than $36,000 in cash and in-kind prizes awarded. Empower Operations won more than $30,000 of the total.

Empower produces software that "supercharges" engineering for product designers and manufacturers. Its flagship product, OASIS, uses simulation software to automate the design process and reduce the need for costly prototypes. This allows for higher quality products while reducing development costs and time to market. 

 “Coast Capital Savings’ community promise is to help build a richer future for youth in our communities,” says Don Coulter, president and CEO, Coast Capital Savings. “It is through partnerships such as the one that we have forged with Simon Fraser University, through the Venture Connection program, that helps us realize that promise.

“This year’s participants impressed us with their innovation and passion, showing that British Columbia’s entrepreneurial spirit is most certainly alive and well. On behalf of Coast Capital Savings, I would like to congratulate Empower Operations and TerraTap Technologies on their win and all of this year’s participants.”

The in-kind prizes were sponsored by Coast Capital Savings, DeloitteMcCarthy TétraultSkyrocket DigitalLaunch Academy and the Surrey Board of Trade.  

Empower also received:

  • a cloud-based back office support package, sponsored by Deloitte (valued at $12,000)
  • a legal services package, sponsored by McCarthy Tétrault (valued at $12,000)
  • a visual identity and brand consultation, sponsored by Skyrocket Digital (valued at $5,000)
  • Lean Entrepreneur Program (LEP) tuition, sponsored by Launch Academy (valued at $1,200)

 “There were a lot of really good competitors and I felt any one of them could have won,” says Cheng, COO, Empower Operations. “The fact that we did is a testament to our achievements. I’m really proud of our team and thankful for their hard work.

“I’d also thank Coast Capital Savings and Venture Connection for giving us the resources to do what we are able to do.”

The Venture Prize winners competed in a final “pitch-off” on the afternoon of Feb. 11 after securing their place in the finals in a preliminary round of pitches held in January. Competitors delivered a 10-minute presentation, followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer session before a panel of industry judges.

The competition judges this year were Wayne Berg, chief commercial officer, Coast Capital Savings; Mo Dhaliwal, director of strategy, Skyrocket Digital; Michelle Osry, partner, Deloitte; Bill Tam, CEO, BC Technology Industry Association; and Shauna Turner, CEO, BC Renaissance Fund.

The winners were announced at a post-competition reception that featured keynote speaker Maryam Sadeghi, CEO, MetaOptima Technologies and top 2014 Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize winner.

For background on last year’s contest see: http://at.sfu.ca/HALWvN

Since 2008, Coast Capital Savings has been supporting the SFU Venture Connection program, which provides support for student ventures from initial idea to business validation. It offers an early-stage business incubator, mentorship, co-op terms, competitions, networking, speaker events, workshops, seminars and other business resources. More than 3,200 students have participated since 2008 in its range of programs, with development services provided to more than 300 student venture teams.

Edited version of story by Allen Tung for SFU News. Read the story in its original form here.