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UNB Business Program Features Innovators in Paintball Products, Horse Health

Rob Blanchard
Lisa Pfister participates in a pitch competition at UNB (Image: Rob Blanchard Photo UNB, submitted)

FREDERICTON – The University of New Brunswick’s Master of Technology Management and Entrepreneurship (MTME) program is wrapping up its second year of students building skills needed to develop and pitch their own products and evaluate the viability of new technologies.

This year, 13 students built 10 startups and along with courses, participated in weekly pitch sessions where they presented their ventures to a panel of entrepreneurs and coaches.

MTME program manager Phil Lambert said this year’s cohort was a strong and award-winning one and meant major growth from the first year’s cohort of three students.

“This year we’re up to 13 so we have a few more mentors on board,” he said. “I’ve had a number of students who’ve told me that it’s life-altering and I think that’s because it’s experiential.”

“Unlike a more prescribed curriculum where we say, ‘here are the outcomes you’re going to be getting’, it’s a little harder to define. Although I do try to look at some of the overarching values we’re instilling within our program, what are called the four C’s of creativity: critical thinking, collaboration and communication. I think those skills are going to take them far no matter where they apply them in life.”

Lambert says the program is a flexible one. Students go through standard courses in quality management and project management, but the backbone course they take for the first eight months of the program is product design and development, where students’ work depends on the project they’ve selected.

Joshua White develops paintball product

Joshua White Image: Rob Blanchard Photo UNB, submitted)

MTME student Joshua White has developed a product idea, under the company name Hinge Paintball, that adds value to existing paintball equipment by providing a way to transfer pressurized gas from the paintball tank to the marker, or gun.

White says the MTME program helped him communicate his ideas clearly to non-technical audiences.

“TME is all about, from my perspective, teaching business skills to technical people like engineers,” White says.

“I’ve developed my communication skills quite a bit as well as technology management … It’s really given me a framework for ways I can evaluate an idea and then kill that idea off if I don’t think it’s going to be successful based on certain factors that I’ve developed, and work on the next thing rather than dragging something out.”

White is now looking at licensing his product to larger manufacturers for future products.

Lisa Pfister develops milk-analysis system for horses

Lisa Pfister’s Pfera Inc. was founded in the MTME program to develop a milk-analysis system for veterinarians and horse breeders that’s able to predict when a mare will foal, along with an electronic health record for horses.

Lisa Pfister Image: Rob Blanchard Photo UNB, submitted)

Pfister says what she valued most about the program was having a safety net that allowed her to pursue her idea without worrying too much about what would happen if it didn’t pan out.

“[It’s] having a support system if something were to fail that you’re still graduating with a degree. You still have that safety net and that’s what gives you the courage to do something crazy like starting a business,” she says.

Pfister has already secured funding and was awarded the top provincial prize as the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) Breakthru Awards, worth nearly $375,000. She plans on beginning clinical trials for the birth prediction system in 2018 and continuing product development.

Lambert says the MTME students have worked to first find a problem, validate the problem, find a solution and validate that solution, one that customers would consider a big enough issue to be willing to spend money on.

“You’re constantly validating your approach and getting outside the university and talking to people and getting feedback,” he says.

“This year, a lot of students did come with ideas, but we try to keep it a little more open and say you don’t necessarily have to have an idea but we at least want you to come with an area of passion.”

Lambert says the ideal position for a student to be in when finishing the program is to be off and running a business, but that this might not always be the case. He says the program also gives students a methodology for evaluating technology and solutions they could use elsewhere.