2021 Research Innovation Festival & Gryphon's LAAIR Innovation Showcase and Pitch Competition

Ryan Appleby, Grand Prize Winner, and Mohammad Khodabakhshi, People's Choice Award Winner, stand with their trophies

Gryphon's LAAIR Winners Mohammad Khodabakhski of DigiTrack Systems Inc. (left) and Dr. Ryan Appleby of Obi Veterinary Education Inc. (Right). Photo Credit: Kyle Rodriguez of Artifacts for Life Photography

Thank you for joining us virtually on May 19, 2021 as we celebrated the third annual Gryphon's LAAIR Showcase and Pitch Competition. Read about the event and pitch competition winners.

2021 Research Innovation Festival

Every day from May 10th through to May 19th 2021, the Research Innovation Office at the University of Guelph (U of G) showcased success stories about innovations that improve life as a part of the Research Innovation Festival. This virtual festival shared a variety of content through our social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube), including videos of past Innovation of the Year Award winners; success stories about academic entrepreneurs; breaking news about research breakthroughs, and announcements of new contests and programs.

A New Virtual Format for the Gryphon's LAAIR Pitch Competition

Throughout the first full week of the Research Innovation Festival the Gryphon's LAAIR Pitch Competition released one pitch per day which featured each the five businesses with roots in U of G research who completed for this years $10,000 Grand Prize and $2,500 People's Choice Award.

The featured companies and video release schedule was:

May 10 May 11 May 12 May 13 May 14
Astra Redex Inc. BioFerm Functional Foods Inc. Obi Veterinary Education Inc. DigiTrack Inc. Guelph Petrographic Imaging

Watch the 2021 Gryphon's LAAIR Pitch Competition Videos Here.

At the end of the fifth day of video release the public was invited to cast their vote for the People's Choice Award to be announced at the Gryphon's LAAIR Grand Finale event held on May 19, 2021.

2021 Gryphon's LAAIR Grand Finale Event

The 2021 Gryphon's LAAIR Finale event ;was hosted by Canadian prairie based food expert Dan Clapson and utilized the online event platform, Hopin. The platform allowed the audience to attend the live stream awards ceremony with messages shared by U of G president Dr. Charlotte Yates and Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and visit directly with each company following the award ceremony stream in unique event booths.

Watch a recording of the Awards Ceremony - Link coming soon!

International Judges

We were pleased to be joined by an international panel of five judges for the 2021 Gryphon's LAAIR Pitch Competition.

Harry is a serial entrepreneur that has worked at the intersection of healthcare and technology, and has touched all aspects of starting companies in complex industries. Having "been there and done it", he's committed to helping entrepreneurs build great companies. In addition, he has been a recipient of the Thiel Fellowship, Kairos Fellowship, James Dyson Award, and more. He currently is helping founders via the Lab2Market Program in Toronto.

Jim Hardin has over 15 years of experience building and investing in digital, life science and agricultural technology companies. Prior to the AVAC Group, he had a productive career as an academic in life sciences and published extensively in various areas of human and animal health. As a past company founder and entrepreneur himself, he has insight into the challenges of the entrepreneurial journey and actions needed to address them. In Jim’s role as co-lead of CARROT, his passion for mentoring innovative technology companies serves to identify and equip teams for significant commercial results.

David is a retired internet/digital serial entrepreneur, turned angel investor with a global health, food and tech portfolio. David has 20+ years of experience building companies and management teams from scratch and taking them to international success, and 10+ years as an investor in early stage ventures, helping them to enter global markets, raise capital and grow.

As the founder of Entrepreneurship Foundation Hungary, David is the creative mind behind the Hungarian government’s INPUT Program, which is recognized by the United Nations as a ‘Global Best Practice Program’ for fostering the innovation ecosystem.

His background includes being a university dropout, a US Government IVLP alumnus, graduate of the China Executive Leadership Academy on doing business in China, Board Member of the Chamber of Commerce of his hometown Győr, member of the Foreign Economic Committee of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and industry in Budapest, Member of the European Parliament of Enterprises in Brussels for 2 terms, as well as an independent expert to the European Commission on SME development, innovation and entrepreneurship. David has been a frequent speaker and MC on entrepreneurship around the world, including GEW, The Kairos Summit, G20 YES, IMPACT, eit European Innovation Awards and UN global innovation events.

Beside Europe, David recently spends most of his time in Canada and served on the Governor General’s Canadian Innovation Awards Committee, is Member of the Culinary Institute of Canada, is a Board of Directors and investment committee member of Natural Products Canada and President of Angel Investment Partners Canada.

Suhas has over a decade of experience in Food and Agriculture as an Investor and Operator. He is currently responsible for making and managing investments on behalf of the firm across the AgriFood ecosystem, he has been instrumental in making five new investments and has worked on boards of companies that have a significant hardware component. Previously, Suhas has built and scaled a row crop seed business in India and has worked extensively with farmers. He also has a breadth of investment experience working on the limited partner side of private investments as well as in M&A and Buyouts.

Jenn Smith is the Director of Cornell University’s Grow-NY program, overseeing a $1M top prize startup competition focused on nurturing a dynamic food and ag ecosystem in Upstate New York. Her role draws on her background in craft beverage market development, most recently as the Executive Director of the New York Cider Association and the New York State Distillers Guild. In addition to working with NYCA and NYSDG, Jenn was an NYC-based consultant to food entrepreneurs creating value-added products and hospitality ventures. Before that, she was the marketing director of New York’s largest wine and spirits retailer, and earlier in her career was a director of early online community- and customer engagement for Citigroup, Bertelsmann, and Time Inc. She studied philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College, was certified in systems analysis at Columbia University, and attended culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education.