Entrepreneurs ready to Ignite Durham

Bob Weese presenting at Ignite's pitch event Tuesday, September 23rd.
Bob Weese presenting at Ignite’s pitch event Tuesday, September 23rd.

Entrepreneurs of Durham are gearing up for the second annual Ignite Durham competition hosted by the Spark Centre.

Spark Centre is an innovative company with the vision of creating a ‘thriving entrepreneurial community that embraces technology to compete in the global business world’. Ignite Durham is a competition created to help expand their vision.

The event consists of three categories Young, Student and General Entrepreneur. Students have the opportunity to win $5,000 while contestants in the young and general categories can win $25,000 each.

The competition ignited September 22nd with events called ‘pitch schools’ where contestants got help from advisers with preparation of their pitches before they present in front of a panel of judges.

“It’s a great panel, you are going to have to know your stuff,” said Dennis Croft, Executive Director of Spark Centre.

Durham College’s president Don Lovisa will be one of the panelists partaking in this year’s competition. The rest of the panel consists of CEOs, a couple MPPs and a handful of other local professionals.

The local student pitch school hosted by Ignite saw Croft and Bob Weese, Managing Partner of B2B Sales Connection, share their expertise with the young and eager students. They started off with a presentation about the basics with some background, tied in with some dos and don’ts for the competition.

“Don’t use words or jargon people don’t understand,” Croft emphasized. Especially with technical and engineering fields – just because you are an engineer it doesn’t mean the panelists are. Keep it simple, be clear and concise as possible.

“How many of you watch Dragon’s Den, or Shark Tank, or any of those things?” Bob Weese asked the crowd to a response of a symphony of nodding heads.

“Have you seen those guys walk up, they’re terrified, sweat’s pouring off their brow, they’re looking at them – that happens, and that just doesn’t happen in front of dragons, it happens in front of angel investors and vulture, excuse me, venture capitalists as well,” Weese joked with the contestants.

After Weese and Croft finished up their presentation the students broke off into groups for more hand’s-on assistance for their pitches.

I’mpossible is one of the start-ups participating in this year’s student category. It was created by young entrepreneur Tyson McLeish.

I’mpossible is a counselling website being designed to hook up people in need with a suitable licensed therapist across the world.

“Hopefully I win the competition, if not at least do networking, seeing where I can expand and hooking up with website advisers,” said McLeish.

Andrew Finnie, a Durham College student in his second year of the Entrepreneurship and Small Business program is another contestant this year with his own innovation.

Finnie’s idea is a website for all things men to be titled Extraordinary Men. His vision is to create a website that men can go to for all men’s needs, organized in an easy to navigate fashion. If you want to learn to tie a tie, shave with a straight razor and countless other life tips and tricks, Extraordinary Men will be the place to go.

“I wanted to be a part of this to get experience and advice from people that have been through it all already,” Finnie said.

During the local pitches contestants are allowed one prop and 60 seconds to present their idea. They are given 15 seconds contingency time but any pitches over 75 seconds end with a disqualification.

The local pitch competitions take place September 29th to October 1st across the region, finalists who succeed in the first round get the opportunity to have a three minute pitch on October 15th at the central pitch competition, which is also when student winners will be announced.