YELL Venture Challenge honours top high-school startup, announces deal to let contestants earn university credit

Nervous high-schoolers and their even antsier parents made the trip to the Vancouver Convention Centre earlier this week for the fifth annual Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) Venture Challenge.

YELL director David Cameron (far left) and members of first-place winner Prize Catch

Agreement between charity and SFU is one of the first of its kind

Nervous high-schoolers and their even antsier parents made the trip to the Vancouver Convention Centre earlier this week for the fifth annual Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) Venture Challenge.

The event, which sees teams of B.C. high-school students compete in the hope of getting their business ideas off the ground, started with 41 groups of contestants. That number gradually shrank to a final four, with each team getting one more chance to pitch its innovation to the hundreds in attendance.

At stake were prizes like lunch with the senior leadership of Goldcorp Inc., plus a tour of the Vancouver-based mining titan’s technology and innovation division. Winners were also given cash to donate to a charity of their choice.

After some heated debate between the judges, Prize Catch, which calls for the sustainable salmon farming by growing crickets and feeding them to the fish in an effort to reduce carbon emissions, took home first place. Prize Catch is made up of high-school seniors Griffin Dent, Dayne Hack, Liam Ryan and Teva Zanker. 

That pitch narrowly bested the others in the top four (all from Metro Vancouver schools), which included SmartPill, an automated system that reminds people to take their medication; Cicer, which aids drowsy drivers and those with heart conditions by monitoring their heart rates and sending alerts if any irregularities occur; and Tracker Bond, a GPS tracker that you can stick on valuable items.

Also announced at the Venture Challenge was an agreement to explore a partnership between YELL, a registered Canadian charity, and SFU’s Beedie School of Business that will see the latter offer university credit for the YELL program.

“If we’re actually going to be creating this pipeline of talent, then why aren’t universities doing what they do for science classes and for calculus class and saying, ‘You know what? We’ll give you university credit for that class because we value it,'” said Sarah Lubik, SFU’s director of entrepreneurship.

All of the students competing in Venture Challenge took an Entrepreneurship 12 elective, and Lubik anticipates that a credit will ensure that those classes are well attended.

“I hope this will be a trend that sets the tides for what entrepreneurship is in Canada and how it’s valued by our universities and communities,” she said, “and so that entrepreneurship students know that there is a welcome place for them at university.”

YELL director David Cameron echoed those thoughts.

“When I talk to students, they say, ‘Yeah, but universities don’t require entrepreneurship. Why should I take this course?’ Cameron noted. “What we really hope this partnership communicates is how serious universities and employers are in seeing, evaluating and looking for those skills in those they hire and support.”