The Odlum Brown Forum Pitch Finale crowns three finalists, including a former contender

The event was jam-packed with some of B.C.'s titans of industry.

Credit: Jamie Lee Fuoco/ Finalists Carlyn Loncaric, Mehrsa Raeiszadeh, Mehwish Panjwani and Kelly Thomson

The event was jam-packed with some of B.C.’s titans of industry

I first encountered Carlyn Loncaric at a pitch event put on by The Forum some six years ago. She ended up as a top-11 finalist that year for a product that was undoubtedly impressive: a handheld sonar device called the AquaEye that helps lifeguards search underwater.

This year, at the Odlum Brown Forum Pitch Finale—hosted at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on April 27—it was apparent that both Loncaric and the event had come a long way.

Loncaric, the founder and CEO of VodaSafe, was one of the three finalists at this year’s finale. Mehrsa Raeiszadeh, co-founder and COO of car auction platform MintList, and Mehwish Panjwani and Kelly Thomson, co-founders of reusable packaging biz Quil, rounded out the list.

All three companies took home a $37,750 grand prize package to fund and fast-track their business goals. Loncaric’s VodaSafe added an additional prize package valued at $20,000 as the result of an audience vote.  

And what an audience it was. Clocking in at over 900 people, the crowd at the Fairmont Hotel was more than supportive—overall, this year’s event raised over $861,000 in total, including the raucous live auction.

For Loncaric, it’s something of a homecoming. When we first covered her, VodaSafe had only launched its pilot project. Today, the AquaEye is being used by hundreds of organizations across North America, including the US Navy Seals.

“Being selected as a finalist in this year’s The Odlum Brown Forum Pitch program is an honour and a game changer for VodaSafe,” said Loncaric in a release. “The mentorship provided by Melanie Ewan [co-founder of Volition], and the access to community and capital provided by The Forum has been invaluable as we continue to transform water rescue to save lives and keep first responders safe.”