Grow a Seed and 20/20 OptimEyes win cash prizes at ELEV8 Pitch Night

Our most recent ELEV8 Pitch Night took place on November 9, and we were pleased to feature a roster of eight thriving startups that pitched to our live audience here at McMaster Innovation Park!

Eric Zimmerman of Enhanced Medical Nutrition pitching at ELEV8

ELEV8 is a pitch competition Innovation Factory holds three times per year, where companies who have a product in-market (or close to launch) present their business in an investment-style pitch presentation.

It’s designed to help connect our partners, mentors and the Hamilton community with up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Participants have the chance to take home a $250 or $750 prize.

A full room of guests joined us November 9th to watch the following companies deliver their 5-minute pitches:


  • Fran Lasowski of 20/20 OptimEyes – An ophthalmic innovation company with a drug delivery device formulated as an eye drop to treat dry eye disease.
  • Mohammed Ahmed of Eatable – A mobile app that serves as a hub for students to share and search for quick, budget-friendly recipes.
  • Eric Zimmerman of Enhanced Medical Nutrition – Developing evidence-based, clinical nutrition to support the preparation and recovery of patients undergoing surgery.
  • Paul Mercante of Gene Blueprint – A patented gene score system that uses a client’s genetics and a proprietary algorithm to provide fitness and nutrition recommendations.
  • Cameron Siou of GenZ Innovations – A redesigned rowing machine structure to mimic water conditions with extra degrees of movement for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.
  • Peter De Pagter of Grow a Seed – An organic  microgreen garden kit offering health conscious consumers simple solutions to growing food in their own homes.
  • Mehdi Sanjari of NanoPhyll – A company offering cost-efficient smart coatings, with benefits spanning self-cleaning, anti-microbial and anti-grafitti properties.
  • Alexa Roeper of Penta Medical – Wearable therapy solutions to accelerate the injury recovery process.

Cameron Siou of GenZ Innovations says the most valuable part of the ELEV8 pitch competition were the practice sessions: “After the initial pitch training, the team at Innovation Factory offered up their time to help each of us practice our pitches. They were extremely helpful in giving me feedback on how to keep the audience’s attention while staying true to my core messages, which was especially helpful since I’m quite new to pitching my business.” Cameron also pointed to the networking opportunity as a value add: “I got to meet another healthcare entrepreneur who’s selling his product in a major gym chain that I’m interested in working with in the future – a connection I made thanks to ELEV8.”


Following each pitch, an expert panel of judges asked questions and based their evaluations on each company’s business model, value proposition, go-to-market strategy, commercial viability, and more. The judges included: Karen Grant of Angel One Investor NetworkJoan Hodge of Meridian Financial Credit Unionand Steven Leach of Ridout & Maybee LLP.

Once votes were tallied, Peter De Pagter of Grow a Seed scored highest winning $750 and Fran Lasowski of 20/20 OptimEyes won second place and $250 !

ELEV8 winners, Peter De Pagter and Fran Lasowski

For Peter, narrowing his business’ value proposition down to a 5-minute pitch he could use in the future was one of the greatest takeaways from ELEV8: “Crafting the Grow a Seed story into a 5-minute pitch was incredibly challenging, but such a valuable and rewarding exercise,” he explains. “I especially appreciated all the support that the staff at Innovation Factory were able to give me; they helped me hone my pitch, gave me valuable feedback, and I was able to go back for help multiple times, which led to my winning pitch.”The event was filled with great networking opportunities for presenters and attendees alike – you can view photos from the event here.

*If you’re interested in contacting any of the above companies or want to learn more, check out our ELEV8 handoutThough Pitch Night is open to the public to attend, the opportunity to pitch is by invite-only for clients of Innovation Factory. If you have an innovative business idea, you can sign up to become a client by filling out an intake form and coming in for an intake meeting. As a client of iF, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in exclusive programs and events like ELEV8.

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