History major takes 2014 Student Entrepreneur of the Year award
By Marianne Meadahl
Fourth-year history student Nikki Layson is Simon Fraser University’s 2014 Student Entrepreneur of the Year. Layson won the distinction for his role as part of a collaborative team behind UMI (Urinary Metabolite Indicator), a device that uses metabolites found in the body to help prevent muscle injury.
The UMI team, whose members are from across Canada—B.C., Alberta, Nunavut and Ontario—came together at the June 2014 U.S. Embassy Startup Weekend. He says: “After 56 hours of working together over the weekend, we turned an idea into a viable business.”
A research team at the University of Alberta and the National High Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Centre (NANUC) is developing UMI’s technology.
Layson's role is to market its potential. The group’s goal is to design a test to allow both professional and amateur athletes to remain at their peak level of performance, and limit injuries associated with training.
Layson was one of 10 young SFU entrepreneurs who pitched their business concepts earlier this month in a Dragon’s Den-style competition presented by the SFU Entrepreneur of the Year initiative, one of Enactus SFU's signature programs. Enactus SFU is a student-led social entrepreneurship organization. Four entrants were chosen as semi-finalists for the final round of competition held at the Surrey campus on Nov. 22.
Others finalists included second-place finisher BuzzIt, a hyper-local messaging app, the People's Choice winner Gorshee Academy, a tutoring service for students in China, and Lighting Geek Entertainment, an e-commerce business specializing in entertainment lighting products.
Layson netted $2,500 for his business from event sponsor GradusOne, while Buzzit and Gorshee Academy received $1,000 and $500 respectively for their achievements. Those prizes were sponsored by SFU’s Beedie School of Business.
UMI also received the Tech Entrepreneurship Award from the British Columbia Innovation Council.
Layson admits the award is an unusual honour for someone specializing in 20th-century history.
“My journey into entrepreneurship started that weekend and has since turned into a passion in life to be a change maker,” says Layson, who also works as a student patroller on the Burnaby campus. He has just finished a semester in the Change Lab, a joint course run by the Beedie School of Business and Faculty of Environment that focused on Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the False Creek Flats area of Vancouver.
Layson is next eyeing the Grenoble Ecole de Management–Beedie School of Business joint semester, which will have a focus in social entrepreneurship, as well as Enactus Canada’s Student Entrepreneur National Competition in 2015.
The UMI team includes Layson, along with: Dr. Chris Skappak from the University of Calgary, Charlotte Chan from the University of Waterloo, Randeep Dhesi from BCIT, Lavinia Gordon from Nunavut Arctic College and Joel Musambi from Spring Arbor University in Michigan.