Last Wednesday was an exciting day at MaRS—it marked the eighth year of the Up-Start! Competition, an annual business pitch competition where attendees of the Entrepreneurship 101 lecture series are invited to present their business cases for a chance to win a $10,000 prize.

We spoke with this year’s winner, Ronny Barrellithe founder and CEO of TrendyMED Inc. Here’s what he had to say about the win and his entrepreneurial journey. 

Hi, my name is Ronny Barrelli, and I’m the founder and CEO of TrendyMED Inc. We are so excited to have won the 2013 Up-Start! Competition. Including this recent win, TrendyMED has won three important awards in the past six months of key venture competitions.

This recognition goes along with the great feedback and support we have received from industry experts, key opinion leaders and potential customers. It also marks a memorable milestone in the evolution of our venture toward becoming a proud global Canadian company that can significantly impact patients’ quality of life and care, and save billions of dollars for governments and healthcare providers in taxpayers’ money.

How do we do it?

The pitch: Ronny Barrelli, founder and CEO of TrendyMED Inc.

We have a technology that can replace gravity! No need to be alarmed, though, we can still keep our feet on the ground, at least for now.

To be more specific, TrendyMED has invented the MobileIV infusion device, a small, lightweight, environmentally friendly product that delivers intravenous (IV) infusion liquids to patients from any size bag without the need for gravity and poles. The MobileIV does not require any power source or even batteries, and it can be mobilized safely and easily anywhere, anytime and in any position. Plus, it costs only a fraction of what traditional IV devices cost, yet offers much greater value to both patients and healthcare providers.

Lessons learned

From the moment I conceived the idea of the MobileIV infusion device while being an IV patient myself a few years ago up until the moment of winning the Up-Start! Competition, many lessons have been learned. I would like to share some of these insights with both existing and aspiring entrepreneurs alike, with a focus on our perspective as participants in the Entrepreneurship 101 program and our experience during the Up-Start! Competition.

While MaRS provides an abundance of useful services and resources, such as market intelligence, advisory services and various educational tools, I found the Entrepreneurship 101 program to be specifically focused on refining the building blocks of our business plan. Some of the sessions that were of particular relevance to us were:

  • The session on bootstrapping, which helped us realign our strategy to more effectively invest our resources and money to achieve our desired outcome; and
  • The session on the go-to-market strategy, which enabled us to look more realistically at our limited resources versus the objectives we would like to achieve, especially during Year 1.

We have now narrowed down our focus to select key customers, including the Canadian Forces, EMS and up to two key hospitals, as part of the market validation process through MaRS EXCITE and the Canadian Innovation and Commercialization Program. The Entrepreneurship 101 sessions and others were instrumental in helping us to adopt a more practical and realistic approach, allowing us to optimize our business plan.

The judges: William Brown, Sonia Sanhueza and Rob Scully

The Up-Start! Competition process and Entrepreneurship 101 sessions allowed us to interact, network and listen to what others had to say, which helped us in substantiating our value proposition with one of our most intriguing market segments: emerging economies in Africa, Asia and South America.

Millions of people—children and adults alike—suffer each year, and many die each year, from dehydration, malaria, dysentery and diarrhoea, among other afflictions. Healthcare providers in these continents rarely use electric IV pumps as they are very costly and gravity poles do not offer the mobility, accessibility and ease of use required. In this respect, the MobileIV can offer valuable benefits to improve quality of life and care, and can significantly help in decreasing mortality rates.

Here are three of the main tips and highlights we picked up in the Entrepreneurship 101 sessions.

1)    Focus on select key achievable objectives. Focusing on too many objectives is neither practical nor realistic.

2)    Adjust your resources to your existing budget. Fundraising is important, but knowing what you can achieve with your current budget is of even more importance at this early stage.

3)    Make your pitch clear and simple—to view, to read and to explain.

These three tips, coupled with the feedback we received from the advisors during the Up-Start! Competition, allowed us to perfect our pitch to the level where we were confident that it was clear, engaging and compelling enough for the finals.

I am a very passionate person by nature and this comes across to the audience when I pitch. Having a great idea is important, but a pitch is not always about the content—it’s mostly about the delivery. It’s about how compelling and engaging you are in delivering your story and message.

The winners! Ronny Barrelli, founder and CEO of TrendyMED Inc., winner of the Up-Start! Competition prize (left); Mihnea Stoian and Ana Caracaleanu of Luevo, winner of the People’s Choice Award (centre); and Tony Redpath, master of ceremonies (right)

Finally, you will encounter many challenges, both with developing your product and with building your business plan. We encountered many, from technical challenges with research and development to a lack of relevant market intelligence information. However, putting in the right effort and thought process led us to overcome most of these challenges. In fact, the challenges will increase as your venture evolves, but with the proper state of mind you can beat them all.

As Sir Winston Churchill once said: “Kites rise high against the wind.” My very best wishes to your success. — Ronny Barrelli

To view more pictures from the competition, check out our Flickr pageThe Entrepreneurship 101 series will begin again on September 25, 2013. Join us to learn the fundamentals of building a successful business. Register now!

Marielle Voksepp

Marielle works as part of the education team at MaRS. She helps entrepreneurs get access to business resources both online and in-person. See more…