Two successful young entrepreneurs were named as winners of a pair of awards at Ontario Centres of Excellence’s annual general meeting on Oct. 21.
Bionym co-founder and CEO Karl Martin and InteraXon co-founder and CEO Ariel Garten took home top honours and $25,000 each for their work innovating wearable technology. Both are leading companies that spun out of the University of Toronto.
Karl Martin won the 2014 Martin Walmsley Fellowship Award for his work on the Nymi, a bracelet that authenticates a user’s identity through their unique heartbeat or electrocardiogram (ECG). When paired with Bluetooth connectivity, the identity can be used to open doors, turn on home electronics or as a tap-and-pay device. Bionym recently secured more than $14 million in follow-on investment.
The Martin Walmsley award supports the development of an Ontario student in creating an innovative start-up with an economic impact in Ontario. The award honours the vision of Dr. Martin Walmsley, who was instrumental in bringing the original vision for Ontario Centres of Excellence to fruition in 1987.
The second award presented was OCE’s Mind-to-Market Award, which celebrates the best OCE-supported research collaboration between the business and research communities, resulting in effective commercialization of leading edge ideas and solutions.
Garten won the 2014 Mind to Market Award for the collaborative effort between InteraXon and the University of Toronto during the development and commercialization of the company's Muse headband. The Muse is a brain fitness tool that helps users learn to manage stress, stay calm and stay focused while improving physical, emotional and cognitive well-being. InteraXon recently saw more than $7 million in follow on investment from a variety of Canadian and international sources.
Both winners acknowledged and thanked OCE for its support early on in their company’s formation.
The Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation and Training, Colleges and Universities, presented the awards to the winners at the OCE event and praised the entrepreneurial spirit of both.
“You both succeeded in a rigorous process to receive these awards and are setting an inspiring new standard,” the minister said. “Despite the unconventional route you took as entrepreneurs and the potential risk you faced, you persevered, worked hard and it paid off. You should both be very proud.”