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LU’s Ascend Accelerator grads show off their entrepreneurial spirit

Businesses ranged from offering a nursing app to beauty care services in this year's Ascend Accelerator program.
Ingenuity group photo
Participants, from left, included Derek Patterson, Gavin Shields, Esther Ukiomogbe, and Maxwell Robinson. Missing from the photo is Zak Williams. Photo courtesy of Lakehead University.


THUNDER BAY -- On July 22, Lakehead University celebrated the graduation of its second cohort from the Ascend Accelerator boot-camp-style program hosted by the Ingenuity incubator space, which helps entrepreneurs turn their business ideas into reality.

Along with receiving funding provided by FedNor, participants in the student-based business ventures received mentorship and weekly workshops. They were held accountable to milestone goals created over the 12-week Ascend program.

This year, the cohort included six participants who explored five ideas. Ingenuity Manager Alyson MacKay said it was exciting to help the students develop their businesses.

“The second cohort of Ascend was an incredible success,” MacKay said.

“It includes a diverse group of businesses at all different stages. The students impressed me daily with their passion and commitment. I look forward to continuing to support the development of their businesses now that the program has ended.”

The businesses range from offering a nursing app to beauty care services, and more. Maxwell Robinson founded Infusionist, the iPhone and Apple Watch application made for nurses and care personnel to efficiently track and manage infusions, care task reminders, and customizable timers.

These features assist nurses working in a hectic care environment through smart and dynamic notifications that warn you when a task may be due – such as a medication reminder.

“The opportunity to participate in the Ascend program at Ingenuity Lakehead has been a great learning experience for me,” Robinson said.

“Ingenuity provided the business start-up expertise and inspired an entrepreneurial spirit which enabled me to bring my idea to fruition.

“As a nursing student myself, I was skeptical of my ability to meet my business development milestones, however, through Ingenuity guidance and the many highly valuable workshops, my start-up and my personal business acumen truly benefitted from this program.

“I would recommend anyone with an idea or a new business venture at Lakehead University to consider the Ascend program,” said Robinson, who was not the only one inspired by the Ascend program.

Zakary Williams created Gaze Guitar, a software development company that is working on creating a virtual musical instrument to allow those with physical disabilities the ability to create and play music.

Gavin Shields and Derek Patterson launched Portal North, a marketing and storytelling media company that specializes in developing 360-degree virtual tours that allow their clients to showcase a variety of interior/exterior environments.

Esther Ukiomogbe founded A26 to provide beauty services starting with lash extensions and lash care products.

Christopher Silver started Silver Vantage Software, which is developing a fall and fever detection system using thermal sensor technology.

The product is for the aging and elderly population. It is used in the client’s home or a long-term care facility – with notifications delivered through a mobile application.

Dr. Andrew Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, congratulated each participant for making it through to graduation.

“This is the second year of the Ascend program, which provides Lakehead students with a great platform to launch their creative business ventures,” Dr. Dean said.

“This year's cohort again shows the diversity and imagination of the participants. From beauty products, to 360-degree videos to cutting edge app development, the businesses being developed this year are poised to ascend to the next level.”


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