media release

Spexi GeoSpatial takes top prize at SFU's largest entrepreneurship competition

April 16, 2019

Pauline Leoncio, Marketing & Communication Coordinator, SFU's Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection, (778) 387-0923,
Erin McKinley, Manager, Communications & Media Relations, Coast Capital Savings, (604) 517-7657,


Simon Fraser University’s most promising early-stage entrepreneurs have spent the past two months battling in a series of pitches to be named this year’s Top Venture. Spexi GeoSpatial, a startup that uses drone technology to make geospatial data more accessible, has emerged as the winner of SFU’s eighth annual Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition, claiming the title and a $35,000 cash and in-kind prize package.

Spexi GeoSpatial’s focus is to empower new industries by unlocking the power of drone technology to help deliver aerial intelligence at scale. Their cloud-based platform provides organizations with a streamlined end-to-end solution that automates drone flights, photogrammetric data processing, and geospatial data analysis.

“Winning the Venture Prize means we can hire additional software engineers to help us scale our cloud offerings faster, and reach our mission of making geospatial data more accessible sooner,” says Peter Szymczak, the venture's co-founder. The team also won the competition’s Top Science and Technology award.

"As we continue to gain traction in our initial markets, the additional resources will really allow us to build on our successes and reach our goals sooner.”

Founders Bill Lakeland and Peter Szymczak met while completing the Management of Technology MBA program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business. Lakeland’s geospatial background and Szymczak’s technical background made them a great pairing for this venture.

Today, Spexi GeoSpatial is a proud Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection client and is looking onwards to compete in the New Ventures BC 2019 competition.

Presented by Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection at SFU, the Venture Prize is SFU’s largest entrepreneurship competition. This annual event awards substantial cash and in-kind prizes while celebrating ventures from all stages, from budding entrepreneurs with bright ideas to established founders with fully-operating businesses.

Competitors face two intensive rounds of pitches to a panel of industry judges and a public audience. Open to SFU staff, faculty, students and recent alumni, this year’s applicants represented a diverse array of ventures – from IoT to services and pharmaceuticals, all vying for a piece of the $75,000 prize pot. 

Notably, this year’s competition saw more female-led companies competing as finalists, who represented a cross-section of faculties, reflecting the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection’s broad and inclusive approach to early ventures and innovation. 

The competition recognizes winners in various categories including digital internet, science & technology, and small business, with additional prizes rewarding ventures at the idea stage, those founded by women and SFU alumni, and those focused on social impact. Given a strong pool of engaged SFU alumni teams, the alumni founder award went to two ventures, with each taking home a $1,500 cash prize.

The recently added Penguin Pivot prize awards a team that takes daring risks and pivots when their venture is deemed best suited for something new.

The finals, held last week at the law firm of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG), awarded $40,000+ in cash and more than $35,000 in ‘in-kind’ prizes. BLG is also the event host and a platinum sponsor, joined by SFU Innovates, the university’s innovation strategy. SFU Innovates builds on SFU’s dynamic culture and seeks to strengthen SFU’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Additional prize and event sponsors include PwC, Clio, the Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship as well as SFU’s Industry Engagement, Alumni Association and the SFU Spirit Shop.  

Other award winners:

Top Digital Internet award: Anonymous Chat

Top Small Business award: Employ to Empower

Female Founder award: Aplica!

SFU Alumni Founder award: CareCrew and Streamline Athletes

Social Impact award: Davos

Penguin Pivot Prize: BuzzIt

The Venture Prize has been recognizing entrepreneurial excellence at SFU for almost a decade, and is supported by Coast Capital Savings – a key partner for Venture Connection since 2008. 

“The Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection is an expression of our commitment to the financial well-being of youth and our promise to invest 10 percent of our bottom line in programs that empower young people to achieve what's important in their lives,” said Calvin MacInnis, president and CEO of Coast Capital Savings.

"Through our support for the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection program and this annual competition, we are excited to help identify, showcase and develop the young entrepreneurs who will become the business innovators, job creators and change makers of tomorrow."

“On behalf of SFU, I would like to congratulate this year’s applicants and award winners,” says Joy Johnson, SFU’s Vice-President, Research and International. “As an SFU Innovates program, Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection strengthens SFU’s commitment to innovation by helping students and researchers mobilize their ideas for positive social and economic impact.” 

About SFU's Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection Program:

Since 2008, the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection program at SFU has been providing support for University 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. SFU’s flagship entrepreneurship program has supported more than 10,000 individuals from the SFU community, ranging from students, staff, faculty, and recent alumni and provided startup services to over 185 early ventures.

About Coast Capital Savings:

Coast Capital Savings is Canada’s largest credit union by membership and B.C.’s first credit union to be granted federal credit union status. An Imagine Canada Caring Company and a certified B Corporation in recognition of its social performance, the credit union invested $5.6 million into local communities in 2017, focusing on empowering and engaging youth. Coast Capital is one of Canada's Most Admired Corporate Cultures™, and is a winner of the Canada's Best Managed Companies Platinum Club designation. In 2018, Coast Capital was awarded the Corporate Responsibility Award at National Philanthropy Day by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Vancouver Island Chapter. It has 52 branches serving its 555,000 members in the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and Okanagan regions of British Columbia. Product innovations include Canada's first free chequing account from a full-service financial institution. To learn more, visit

About Simon Fraser University:

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded more than 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 155,000 alumni in 143 countries around the world.

Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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