Most people don’t go willingly to a bootcamp.

A bootcamp is hard work. Recruits are pushed to their limits. Sometimes there are tears and pain.

But, a bootcamp can also lead to growth and glory.

At the Communitech Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp pitch competition, this proved to be true.

On Thursday, Oct. 1, a crowd gathered at the Tannery Event Centre to watch the top eight women pitch their companies to a panel of judges. The growth? Many of these pitches had started as an idea just one short month ago. The glory? Cash prizes of $100,000 to be won.

The top eight female-led companies picked to pitch came from across Canada, and represented businesses focused on a wide variety of sectors including travel, construction and financials.

Gayemarie Brown, the National Innovation Leader at Deloitte Canada and one of the competition judges, was impressed with the calibre of ideas the women brought to the table.

“This is putting money where your mouth is,” Brown said of the programming and of Deloitte’s financial support for the boot camp. “This is real. I can mentor, show up and judge, but [these women are] our future. Our future is bright.”

Brown, along with Carol Leaman, CEO, Axonify; Steve McCartney, VP Startup Services, Communitech; Sunil Sharma, Managing Partner, Extreme Venture Partners; and Rachel Pautler, CEO, Suncayr, listened to the eight three-minute pitches and followed up with direct and difficult questions about the companies’ financial forecasting and customer acquisition plans.

The judges awarded three top prizes: First place, and $35,000, went to Sarah Murphy of Sentinel Alert, an app that works to prevent industrial injuries.

Renishaki Kamal of Fidget, which develops tools for children with autism, placed second and won $25,000.

Alexa Roeper of Penta Medical took home third place and a $15,000 cheque for her company, which uses laser therapy bandages to speed up orthopedic recovery.

The remaining five finalists were each awarded $5,000.

“My goal in coming to the bootcamp, and coming to Communitech, was building my network and meeting people here,” said Murphy, who is from St. John’s, Nfld.

“Winning was such a great bonus. We’re in fundraising mode right now so it’s incredibly helpful.”

The top three winners have also been invited to spend a week with the Deloitte d { } (dee space) team at the Communitech Hub for product development and research help.

Murphy is especially excited to bring her team back to spend more time at Communitech.

“It’s amazing for us to get to work with Deloitte,” she said. “To be able to work with that team that has such expertise is phenomenal. I can’t wait to bring my team [to Waterloo Region] and get them infected with the energy here.”

For Brown, the pitch competition was just the beginning of a new chapter for women in tech. Having been one of the few women in the room throughout her career, she was energized to spend time with the bootcamp participants.

She focused on the camaraderie that the bootcamp built between the women; a far cry from the competitive and aggressive environment she experienced early on. She calls it the Taylor Swift phenomenon, where young and talented women want to stop beating each other down in order to make it to the top, and instead band together to lift each other up.

“These women are so humble,” Brown said. “There’s no arrogance. They are all supporting each other.”


Head over to Facebook for more photos from the event.