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A Headstart for Startups

UBC HATCH helps tech entrepreneurs turn great ideas into great businesses


BCBusiness + UBC HATCH

Co-founder Alex Babako is bringing his firm, Aeriosense Technologies, to market with the support of UBC HATCH

UBC HATCH helps tech entrepreneurs turn great ideas into great businesses

Global startups all start with a great idea. While there’s no shortage of smart, high-tech concepts or bright minds out there, so many potentially life-changing solutions never make it to market because the people behind them don’t have the right support.

Enter HATCH, UBC’s tech incubator. Launched in 2016, it provides entrepreneurs the space, time, training, expertise and resources to ensure that their innovations make the leap from the lab shelf to the real world.

Although UBC Sauder School of Business and e@UBC offer mentorship, education and seed funding to support venture creation, before HATCH there was a lack of opportunity for entrepreneurs to build and test their inventions, push their products to market and grow their businesses.

HATCH fills that gap.

The incubator is a partnership between two existing UBC entities, each notable in its own right. entrepreneurship@UBC (e@UBC) is the university’s campus-wide venture accelerator, which has registered more than 900 business ideas since 2013. The Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems (ICICS) is a multidisciplinary research centre that supports collaborative research in advanced technologies systems, with researchers from applied science, science, medicine, arts and other disciplines.

“We develop ground-breaking technology at UBC, but the challenge is often getting technology out of the lab and into the community,” says ICICS director Robert Rohling, professor of electrical and computer engineering as well as mechanical engineering. “At HATCH, we’re helping entrepreneurs build those skills so we can get the work out and make an impact in the world.”

Eligible for seed and concept funding and with access to office space, HATCH participants receive intense business mentorship from entrepreneurs-in-residence as well as the guidance of top-tier UBC researchers. With that range of invaluable backing, entrepreneurial UBC students, staff, recent alumni and faculty can have far-reaching and positive social, economic and environmental effects on B.C., Canada and beyond.

“When I look at the technology coming out of UBC and the potential it has not only for venture and job creation but also for solving big issues facing society, I’m still blown away,” says e@UBC managing director Barry Yates.

Among HATCH’s 20-plus ventures are those that have developed innovations related to liver disease and heart disease, clean water, aging infrastructure, joint pain and more. “We have world-class talent looking at all that,” Rohling says.

HATCH does more than help entrepreneurs take their ideas from dreams to reality; it also schools them in vital day-to-day business operations. Its programming offers innovators mentoring and access to management teams—people with authentic entrepreneurial experience.

HATCH brings in a corporate recruiter to assist aspiring entrepreneurs to build boards of directors and advisory boards and even source CEOs or COOs where appropriate. Furthermore, participants take a five-day sales intensive for practical, hands-on training.

“The sessions look at how to handle complex business-to-business sales,” Yates says. “We have great founders and great technology, but if people don’t know how to approach customers or attract funding, they can only go so far.”

One of HATCH’s promising ventures is called Microdermics. The company has developed an effective, economical way to administer drugs and vaccines using microneedles. The tiny structures inject pharmaceuticals precisely and easily into the skin rather than muscle, making the delivery virtually painless and far more efficient. The technology has immense global potential, particularly in developing nations.

Co-founder Sahan Ranamukha, who completed a PhD in biomedical engineering at UBC and who had no prior entrepreneurial experience, says Microdermics wouldn’t be where it is today without the insight, knowledge and support it has received through HATCH. He and his partners have turned to the open-minded experts there for help with everything from building an accounting team to handling human resources.

“We have always relied on them to give us advice, often on short notice,” Ranamukha says. “We have been able to make very informed decisions. The sales training has been really crucial in order for us to become more seasoned as entrepreneurs, to anticipate situations and respond accordingly.”

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Created by BCBusiness in partnership with UBC HATCH