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How three Ryerson ventures made the grade

Ryerson entrepreneurs share insights about bringing their big ideas to life
Category:Entrepreneurship Series
By: Deborah Smyth
March 26, 2019
Aly Burtch (left) and Alejandro Saettone

uBioDiscovery co-founders Aly Burtch (left) and Alejandro Saettone aim to help the public understand the importance of gut health.


Big idea: The uBioDiscovery (external link)  SUPERBIOME kit is designed to promote gut health. The kit gives customers a breakdown of the bacteria that make up their gut microbiome, and provides customized dietary suggestions tailored specifically to their unique microbiome profile. The program is ideal for those affected by digestive disorders, weight issues or trying to improve overall health.

How Ryerson helped: “Ryerson has played an integral role in the development of uBioDiscovery,” said co-founder Aly Burtch, a biology grad currently enrolled in the Master of Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MEIE) program. “Being members of the Science Discovery Zone when we were first starting the venture provided us with the opportunity to apply for funding and receive coaching from experienced entrepreneurs. The director, coordinators and Entrepreneur in Residence were incredible mentors, they were even some of our very first customers!”

UBioDiscovery has received the DMZ Sandbox Student Grant Stage 1 and 2 Awards and support from the Kimel Family Campus-Linked Accelerator Fund.

Lesson learned: “As an entrepreneur, you hear ‘no’ more often than ‘yes’,” said Burtch. “[But] I have learned the lesson that hearing ‘no’ is not always a bad thing. There are always more opportunities, and there is always a way to utilize the feedback in a constructive way.”

Where they are now: uBioDiscovery continues to test its platform and has plans to partner with naturopathic doctors and dietitians, and expand into international markets. “We are currently in the market, however, it is still early days,” said Burtch. “Our current goals are to work on developing the product further, making improvements to our web platform, and start building brand awareness.”

Bolis Ibrahim

Bolis Ibrahim was a third-year electrical engineering student when he had the initial inspiration for Argentum Electronics.

Argentum Electronics

Big idea: Argentum Electronics (external link)  is about smarter, more efficient power. The Clean Energy Zone company has developed a new Power-over-Ethernet (POE) product that provides both a secure data connection and power to electrical devices through a single cable. Argentum's patent-pending technology enables more power to be delivered to devices, such as LED lighting, through POE.

How Ryerson helped: “I’m so grateful for the support that Ryerson has offered Argentum Electronics throughout my entrepreneurial journey,” said electrical engineering student Bolis Ibrahim, founder and CEO of the company. “Ryerson provided financial support through several grant funding programs, along with physical lab and office space support, mentorship and great industry connections and networking opportunities.”

Lightbulb moment: Campus hot dog vendors helped inspire Ibrahim: “At night, those hot dog carts needed lights, and if there’s no outlet around, they use a gasoline generator. It got me thinking about a bigger problem, smart power management.”

Where they are now: Argentum Electronics is going to market with a boost from winning the Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) 2018 $250,000 N100 Evolution technology startup competition. In early March, Ibrahim, who graduates this June, attended an intensive design-thinking bootcamp in Germany hosted by the Academic Program for Entrepreneurship (APE) at the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (external link) .

Charith Perera

Charith Perera, co-founder of TDot Performance, which got an on-air $1 million deal on Dragon’s Den.

TDot Performance

Big idea: TDot Performance (external link)  is an e-commerce company for performance automotive parts and accessories. TDot buys a wide range of car components from the U.S. and sells them across Canada online.

Big break: Charith Perera (Finance ’12) and his childhood friend Mubin Vaid received an on-air million-dollar deal with entrepreneur Michele Romanow on Dragon’s Den (external link)  in 2015.

How Ryerson helped: “Ryerson prepares you for the real world,” said Perera, who entered the Slaight Business Plan Competition several times, finally finishing in second place in 2010. “The business plan competition was instrumental to us, teaching us skills in presenting, business plan writing and strategic thinking. We failed several times, which taught us to always go back to the drawing board. That was the biggest lesson I learned at Ryerson.” Perera said the process helped him build and refine the important pitching skills that would eventually lead to his deal on Dragon’s Den.

Where they are now: The company’s website describes TDot Performance as “the largest source of car performance parts and accessories in Canada.” TDot, which has grown to about 30 employees, including several Ryerson grads, plans to expand “into other markets and verticals,” said Perera.

TDot Performance on Dragons' Den (external link) .

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