The Forge

Justin left a major positive mark

I’m very sorry to write that Justin Policarpio passed away last night, having lived graciously and courageously with cancer.

Justin was a key community builder, entrepreneur and leader in the Hamilton startup community.

I first met Justin when he was running Women Entrepreneurship, an event series focused on celebrating female entrepreneurship, and working on his Campus Helper education company. He next co-founded and led edtech robotics startup Roboteurs as CEO.

His work with Women Entrepreneurship and his startups was already impressive enough, but where I feel he left a major positive mark on our community was his work with Spectrum / The Forge.

It wasn’t very long ago at all that people talked about a divide between the McMaster community and the Hamilton startup community. There was a “gap” in the pipeline between innovative McMaster students and the business community in Hamilton. There was also a “gap” in terms of support for student entrepreneurs on campus… there was no Velocity or Ryerson DMZ equivalent, and the existing efforts were more informal, sporadic, grassroots.

Justin was the manager of the new Spectrum program that started in 2014, intended to foster and encourage entrepreneurship on campus, and to act as a pipe into a formal incubator program (“The Forge”). This was a very important job, at a critical time. If the Spectrum program flopped, which was a real possibility given the state of things at the time, I don’t think we’d have the energy and number of startups that you see further up the pipeline today. Justin was the perfect person for this role, and he hit it out of the park. A slew of great events and regular programming, much of it done in partnership with others, made his work a complete success in terms of fostering entrepreneurship on campus and building a bridge from McMaster to the broader Hamilton community.

He was a great community builder in that way. He had an infectious positive energy, was wise beyond his years, kind and always eager to help other people, was a great listener, and knew how to make great things happen fast. I met with him before he took on the Spectrum role, and you could tell he really “got it” in terms of the bigger picture. He was really keen on partnering and working together with everyone. Beyond the programming he developed that supported startups, he would always find time to support various other initiatives happening around the city, whether it was a Startup Weekend or a new healthtech meetup group.

People from other communities have noted a collaborative spirit in Hamilton, they’ll say things like, “in Hamilton, you guys really work together compared to X”. Justin played a major role in creating that spirit and culture. His good work and good spirit will live on.

This is the second time I’ve written an article like this in the last year. I’m upset because Justin was so young. It’s really not fair at all. We should use the time we’ve got to make a positive impact the way Justin was able to do so.


And speaking of the time we’ve got, I was reading over some of Justin’s old posts, and I came across this video of life tips he gave to graduating McMaster students. I’ve posted the text of his life advice below, it feels like advice that’s relevant for everyone.


I’d like to take this time to talk about just that, time. It’s something we all have a limited amount of, we never get any more of, so in reality it’s our most valuable asset. That said, why would we ever want to waste it?

A lot of you are going to be graduating from McMaster or have graduated, and you’re starting to think, “you know, what do I spend my time on? Do my masters, my PhD? Do I get a job or travel the world?”.

And in reality you got to do whatever you want to do because it’s something that you want to do, and not something that you feel like you ought to do. And you’re going to get a lot of pressures from your friends, your family, your parents and society as a whole.

I look at the time I spend on my stuff, on my startup company, on this new initiative at McMaster that I’m spearheading called Spectrum for McMaster entrepreneurs and startups. I look at the countless hours I put into this stuff, and you know what? I love it.

It’s time that I feel is well spent because it literally makes me happy, and I see all the value I get out of it. So when I think about the time I spent I think of three main things, and I guess these can be my two minute tips for you.

One is have no regrets. Have no regrets on the time that you’re spending on the things that you want to do.

Two, you know, in a nutshell: be fearless. You’re going to come across a lot of obstacles, not just in your school, and not just in work, but also in life. And they’re going to hit you, but you’re going to have to get through them. So be fearless, be strong.

And three, you really just have to start. You have to start doing what you want to do, and that said you also have to finish it and get it done.


Student Startup Competition next week


When: Thursday March 23rd from 5:00pm – 7:00pm

Where: McMaster University Student Centre, CIBC Hall at 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario

Organizer: The Forge (@theforgehamont)



Calling all budding entrepreneurs: come hear ten finalists pitch their ideas at this year’s Forge@MAC Student Startup Competition that could win them up to $20,000 in cash prizes!

You could also own your very own Nix Color Sensor by attending. Don’t delay – register today!


KiDi SMS featured in InnovatorsRace50


Hamilton startup KiDi SMS is featured in the InnovatorsRace50!

KiDi SMS is a web-based gamification program to incentivize self-management in children. KiDi SMS was implemented for use at McMaster Children’s Hospital, and a pilot study found that 91% of users reported that they felt more motivated to self-manage using KiDi SMS.

InnovatorsRace50 has startups competing for votes across five categories: Govtech and Social Enterprises, Fintech and Mobility, Consumers and Well-Being, Digital Processes and Transformation, Data and Security. Five winning startups can receive $50,000 in funding, as well as mentorship and other benefits.

You can vote for KiDi SMS here!



Learning from startup hiccups with David Carter

When: Wednesday February 1st 2017 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Where: McMaster University – Room ETB 535 – 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton

Organizer: The Forge (@theforgehamont)



There are many reasons why startups experience failure. To celebrate and learn from these inevitable “hiccups”, join The Forge@Mac and David Carter for Failing Forward: How to learn and grow from startup hiccups. David will outline how to fail well and use it to your advantage.

David Carter is the Executive Director of Innovation Factory (iF). iF is Hamilton’s Regional Innovation Centre with the mandate to be a catalyst for innovation in Hamilton. Appropriately, David’s career has been working in innovation since he joined the workforce. It started as a consultant in the burgeoning personal computer industry and then as an International Markets Analyst at the Toronto Stock Exchange in the late 80’s. At Microsoft he worked through the revolution in desktop computing and the internet in the 90s. In 2001, after 11 years at Microsoft he decided to start his own company. From 2001 until 2012 he and his partner took their start-up from a small office in Burlington, to a Boston based firm raising $20 million in venture capital. Carter is thrilled to support today’s entrepreneurs in Hamilton and to be a part of the larger Hamilton ecosystem.


Mariner Endosurgery receives funding


HAMILTON, ON–(Marketwired – January 12, 2017) – Mariner Endosurgery, an innovative Canadian medical device company announced today the recent completion of an investment round led by several prominent medical device investors and leading laparoscopic surgeons from the Toronto – Hamilton area. Terms of the financing were not disclosed.

“We are very pleased with the strategic investors now on board with Mariner Endosurgery,” said Mitch Wilson, President & COO of Mariner Endosurgery. “Surgeons are excited about our innovative product pipeline, and today’s funding represents a significant step towards commercialization of our LaparoGuard technology. Mariner’s computer-assisted platform provides augmented visualization for surgeons during minimally invasive general, gynecological and urological surgical procedures.”

About Mariner Endosurgery Inc.

Founded in 2016, Mariner Endosurgery Inc. develops and commercializes innovative computer assisted medical devices for future-facing laparoscopic surgeries. Their platform LaparoGuard is a novel soft-tissue surgical navigation platform that augments visualization during laparoscopic surgeries, enhancing the safety profile of laparoscopic surgery to assist surgeons in delivering a superior quality of care to their patients.

Mitch Wilson


Editor’s note: The Forge is hosting a “startup story” talk by Mariner Endosurgery COO Mitch Wilson on Thurs. Jan. 26th.


Bronwyn Mondoux talks building a brand by storytelling


When: Tuesday January 10th 2017 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Where: McMaster University (Room ETB 535) 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton

Organizer: The Forge (@theforgehamont)



The Forge@MAC presents Build and Brand: How to leverage the value of storytelling with Bronwyn Mondoux, Creative Director and Owner, Cinnamon Toast. Bronwyn will go through the do’s and dont’s of building your brand including defining your business or product’s unique personality, finding your target audience, becoming a stronger storyteller, and utilizing the perks of digital marketing to build your brand.

Bronwyn Mondoux founded Cinnamon Toast, (CT) in 2006, an innovative design agency specializing in creating brand identities and updating visual marketing presence through the web, print and other media. Bronwyn’s unique creative vision, modern, imaginative take on design and outstanding leadership and project management skills have made CT an award-winning success and a recognized leader in their field. Bronwyn’s focus and entrepreneurial spirit has led to the success and expansion of CT. Since its inception, Cinnamon Toast has expanded its expertise to provide full branding, marketing, design and development services. CT has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of local and international businesses and have had their work recognized by the Ottawa Business Achievement Awards, winning Gold Professional Services of the Year in 2011, and features in DesignBeep, Ottawainsight, Design Shack. HOW Magazine and Advantage Magazine. Bronwyn was personally recognized by the Ottawa Business Journal as a recipient of a 2012 40 Under 40 award for demonstrated success and strong leadership. CT has also been recognized by the Better Business Bureau and The International Steve Awards.


Our Journeys: The Stories of Three Healthcare Startups

Guest post by The Forge


Healthcare is being redefined by startup culture, and three healthcare startups at The Forge are sharing their stories.  Join them on Tuesday, November 8 from 6:00PM-8:00PM (EST) for an inside look at how they got their start.

The event is free and registration can be found here.

Blue Orchid was founded with a simple mission – to create and design simple innovative solutions for challenges that face millions of caregivers every day. Our aim is to create and develop assistive living products aimed towards increasing the quality of life for both patients and caregivers. Whether it is family members or professional caregivers, we want to ensure that by using our products the patient can receive optimal care without frustration or injury for both parties involved. Our goal is to analyze and design products that would allow the patient to maintain their independence for as long as possible within the comfort of their home. Our first line of products will focus on mitigating the loss of mobility from aging, and will provide affordable, simple solutions with regards to lifting, moving and handling the patient at home.

Input Health is a digital health company that produces intuitive cloud-based tools to help patients and their healthcare providers connect in meaningful, outcome-driven ways, enabling the provision of value-based healthcare. The company is led by a dynamic team of physicians, veteran health software developers and user experience designers with a substantial track record of successful technology developments in the digital health industry in Canada and abroad. InputHealth has created an ecosystem of synergistic tools (the IH modules) that utilize modern web and mobile technology to augment or disrupt traditional mechanisms of healthcare delivery. These modules include functionalities such as online appointment booking, secure digital questionnaires and an innovative eReferral system. InputHealth is poised to become a global leader in patient engagement technologies, and is looking to create a paradigm shift in the electronic health record market through their flagship product that combines their entire array of modules – the Collaborative Health Record.

CareKit was founded during an eHealth conference in Toronto. It is a comprehensive software and hardware solution that monitors and manages at-home patients with the use of wearables and sensors. A short while later, ReliqHealth acquired CareKit (rebranded iUGO Health) for $2 million in shares and performance warrants.


How to start a startup with the Forge@MAC



When: Wednesday October 5th 2016 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Where: TwelvEighty Bar and Grill (McMaster University) at 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON

Organizer: The Forge (@theforgehamont)



You’ve been in school for a month already! Take a break, hang out with other interesting people who are interested in entrepreneurship and get some food while you’re at it.

In our roundtable discussions, you’ll get some face time with seasoned entrepreneurs to ask them the ins and outs of starting up a startup…and how Forge @MAC can help you do it!


Forge@MAC: Intro to the Ecosystem and Business Model Canvas



When: Tuesday September 27th 2016 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Where: TwelvEighty Bar and Grill – 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON

Organizer: The Forge



Wondering how to get started with your business idea? Then this workshop is for you! Lead by Tammy Hwang, Business Development Officer with the City of Hamilton and the 2016 winner of Innovation Factory’s DiFizen of the Year Award, this event will take you through how to complete Business Model Canvas. Making a Business Model Canvas is a key step on your journey to success!

Another important part of this event is that we will identify key players in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to you. Who can you go to for help in Hamilton and beyond? The Next 36, a program that helps Canada’s highest potential young entrepreneurs, joins us at this event as they are on the lookout for the next big McMaster success! If this is you (and of course it is) don’t miss this excellent networking opportunity!