Photo: ASCEnt’s Glenn Smith with Edusight’s Li and Somasundaram, and MC Cathy Brothers.

It wasn’t Dragon’s Den, and there were no sharks in sight. But for five teams of young social enterprise entrepreneurs, the stakes were high in Waterloo Region’s newest pitch competition.

The goal: to win first place in the Communitech Accelerating Social Cause Entrepreneurs program (ASCEnt) social enterprise competition. The prize: $5,000 in cash and a year of mentorship by ASCEnt.

ASCEnt, a pilot program to support social entrepreneurs and guide their companies from ideas to success, developed the social enterprise competition to bring ideas and talent together.

The half-day pitch competition was the culmination of months of work for university students across Ontario. Five finalists from more than 60 applicants were invited to the Communitech Hub to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges involved in social enterprise.

Winning first place was Edusight, an online tool for elementary and high school teachers to track student performance, with an analytics engine to drive insights to support tailored instruction. Co-founders Garros Li and Vikram Somasundaram, were excited for the win that will allow them to continue development of their platform.

“We’re passionate about the education space and glad that the judges and the audience here thought we did a great job,” Li said. “We’re excited to take [Edusight] to the next level. The $5,000 will go towards adding to our team and building out more of our platform. It’s great that we are walking away with something tangible. We’re really happy.”

Tracey Robertson, Regional Program Manager for the Ontario Trillium Foundation and one of five judges, believes programs like ASCEnt are crucial in creating the next generation of entrepreneurs interested in making the world a better place.

“It’s really important to support social impact in our community,” Robertson said. “These initiatives and pitches are really new ideas that can actually change and alter our community for the better. What I’m seeing is pitches that are themselves scalable, global and much more in depth than I expected. It’s past the idea stage into concrete solutions.”

The competition, co-hosted by ASCEnt and Students Offering Support, a not-for-profit that supports university students in North and Latin America through social enterprise programs, was the first in what is planned to be an annual program, says Glenn Smith, ASCEnt program chair.

Executive sponsor RBC became involved in the program to promote the creation and sustainability of social purpose enterprises. “Through mentorship and support, the ASCEnt program is working hard to ensure the success of enterprises that provide public, social and environmental benefit,” John Clifford, Vice-President, Commercial Financial Services at RBC said. “RBC was pleased to be the executive sponsor of the Competition and take a leadership role in the financing of social enterprises in Canada.”

About The Author

Kayleigh Platz

Kayleigh Platz is a storyteller and community relations manager for Communitech. Born, raised and schooled in Waterloo Region, she holds two degrees from the University of Waterloo and is interested in new media, social networks and making connections.