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Voting Opens in BDC Young Entrepreneur Award Competition

BDCEntrepreneur Voting has opened for the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award, allowing the public to choose which of 10 innovative businesspeople under the age of 35 will claim 1st prize, valued at $100,000, and, perhaps more importantly, capture the public’s imagination.

Selection of the top prize winner is made by evenly weighting the judgement of a national committee and the voting public, 50% each.

In evaluating potential prize winners, the national committee judges are looking for a clear explanation of how winning the top prize can take a company from continuing along their current trajectory to accelerating to the next level.

In the case of Waterloo, Ontario’s Clearpath Robotics, which raised a $14 million funding round in March, participating in the competition is likely less about money than exposure on a national stage.

Success for Clearpath Robotics also represents an opportunity to reboot Ontario’s once-great manufacturing heartland with a “Made In Ontario” approach to supplying robotics for the next generation of the province’s industrial needs.

“We want to do for robotics what BlackBerry did for smartphones,” says Clearpath CEO Matt Rendall, waving the flag for Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo tech hub.

While not every entrepreneur in the competition falls under the “Tech” category, what’s clear from BDC’s perspective is that innovation is valued above all, no matter what sector the business serves.

When Cantech Letter talked to BDC president Jean-René Halde last week, what became clear is that the same mentality that drives the tech sector can be applied in surprising ways to businesses that may not seem overtly tech-related.

“It’s more a way of thinking. You’ve got to stay ahead of the curve,” said Halde. “We need to adopt technology everywhere, from agriculture to fintech.”

Martin O’Brien, owner of P.E.I.’s Cascumpec Bay Oyster Company, intends to apply a technological solution to meet growing demand for his oysters. “A major part of my growth plan,” he says, “is to add technology to the bottlenecks of the job, and the biggest bottleneck of all is grading oysters manually, by size and shape.”

Phillip Curley, of New Brunswick’s HotSpot Parking Inc., incorporates iBeacon technology into a platform that hopes to innovate life for the urban consumer. Using the rhetoric of “smart cities”, HotSpot’s mobile platform solves parking issues while also fostering customer engagement with downtown merchants.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, owner of Real Food Market Melissa Butler intends to enter into a partnership with a local farm to invest in greenhouse technology to supply the island with much-needed year-round fresh food.

Newfoundland took a bit of a reputation hit in March when misanthropic Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard visited the island and casually mentioned how fat everyone is.

In a case like this, it’s clear that taking a technological or innovative approach to business is as much about improving people’s actual daily lives as it is about shiny new devices or social media platforms.

The full list of finalists can be viewed here. Voting continues until June 17 at noon.

Second prize will be $25,000 in consulting services from BDC.

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