Engineering Startups dominate OCE Discovery Awards David Johnson and students

It was a clean sweep for Waterloo Engineering entrepreneurs at this week’s Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery Conference.

Startups PetroPredict and Voltera, founded and run by Waterloo Engineering students and alumni, took all three university and college-level awards at the OCE conference held May 12 to 13 in Toronto.

PetroPredict, launched by recent mechanical engineering graduate Dominic Toselli, pictured above, and Andrew Andrade, a second-year Waterloo mechatronics engineering student, won a pair of awards – the inaugural David McFadden Energy Entrepreneur Challenge, and the Elevator Pitch competition winner.

"We're really pleased and honoured to have won the awards," says Toselli, who just last month was named by Maclean’s as one of its Future leaders under 25. "With our winnings we'll be able to hire three interns and one PhD student. There's a lot of talent at Waterloo so that's where we'll start looking."

The Energy Entrepreneur Challenge invited university and college students from across Ontario to address challenges facing the energy sector through entrepreneurial solutions in a three-minute video posted on YouTube. PetroPredict beat out the nine other finalists chosen to pitch to an expert panel at the conference.

Using historic production and geological data collected from seismic charts, well logs and other sources, PetroPredict uses machine learning and data mining techniques to predict casing integrity issues in conventional oil wells and quantify the risk of their occurrences. As the Energy Entrepreneur Challenge winner, PetroPredict, currently being piloted, receives $25,000 and a suite of business services.

PetroPredict also won the OCE’s Elevator Pitch Competition that challenged Ontario residents 18-29 to pitch their idea-stage businesses in a two-minute video. PetroPredict was awarded $5,000 in cash to help validate the startup’s business concept.

"Winning the awards provides us with great exposure and shows that although the world is moving toward renewable energy, the impact and our reliance on oil and gas is still really great," says Toselli, who was approached by a number of potential investors at the conference. "So the environmental impact PetroPredict can make still holds a lot of focus in itself."

The OCE’s inaugural Investor Pitch Competition was won by Voltera Inc., a company that uses conductive ink and inkjet technology to print circuit boards within minutes. Voltera was founded in 2013 by Waterloo mechatronics and nanotechnology engineering grads Alroy Almeida, James Pickard, Jesus Zozaya and Kat Ilic.

The five finalists in the Investor Pitch Competition were selected based on the market research, viability and investment-readiness of the business. As the winning team, Voltera received $10,000 cash plus $15,000 in professional services from Dentons Canada LLP and KPMG LLP.