Toronto’s Alexander Levy never planned to start a business, but while working as a student researcher at the University of Toronto, he developed a prototype mobile application that allows people with communication disorders, such as those caused by stroke, autism and ALS, to make themselves understood audibly – at a tiny fraction of the cost of existing hardware systems.
As Levy demonstrated the technology to clinicians and families, he found that an overwhelming percentage of them wanted to pay to use it. So, the 24- year-old launched MyVoice Inc. earlier this year to distribute the app of the same name. More than 9,000 people in 30 countries have downloaded a free version of MyVoice, and many are converting to paid monthly subscriptions that include powerful customization tools. “Our products materially improve the lives of thousands of people with disabilities,” says Levy, who now has 10 employees.
For developing a life-changing innovation, creating jobs and building a company with the potential for explosive growth, Levy has been chosen the FuEL Entrepreneur of the Year as part of the 1st annual FuEL Awards. He is among 20 Canadians under the age of 30 honoured for their entrepreneurial excellence by the FuEL Awards, which celebrate Canada’s Future Entrepreneurial Leaders (FuEL).
“The winners of the FuEL Awards are eager young Canadians, brimming with innovative ideas and a passion for creating a better future,” says Ian Portsmouth, Editor-in-Chief of PROFIT, which produces the awards in cooperation with Impact Entrepreneurship Group. “They are role models for Canada’s youth, and the cornerstone of the country’s economic prospects.”
All 20 FuEL Award winners will be profiled in the December/January 2012 issue of PROFIT and receive a one-day business consultation with professionals from KPMG Enterprise.
FuEL Award winners (in alphabetical order)
- Arash Afrooze, 27, Burnaby – HiretheWorld Enterprises Inc.
- Kenshi Arasaki, 28, Vancouver – A Thinking Ape Technologies Inc.
- Rattan Bagga, 26, Burnaby – Jiva Organics Manufacturing and Distributing Inc.
- Ray Cao, 25, Toronto – Loose Button Inc.
- John Carbrey, 29, Toronto – Intrafinity Inc.
- Lauren Friese, 28, Toronto – TalentEgg Inc.
- Debbie Fung, 29, Toronto – Yoga Tree Inc.
- Monique Haakensen, 29, Saskatoon – Contango Strategies Ltd.
- Dave Hale, 23, Ottawa – Soshal Group Inc.
- Graham Hawryluk, 24, Headingley – Meticulous Wood Flooring Inc.
- Sammie Kennedy, 29, Toronto – Booty Camp Fitness Inc.
- Arjun Kumar, 26, Whitby – Kela Medical Inc.
- Alexander Levy, 24, Toronto – MyVoice Inc.
- Matt Rendall, 27, Kitchener – Clearpath Robotics Inc.
- Simon Rouillier, 28, Montreal – NVI
- Amit Sandhu, 26, Richmond – Ampri Group
- Josh Sookman, 28, Toronto – Guardly Corp.
- Kyle Vucko, 26, Vancouver – Indochino Apparel Inc.
- Dave Wilkin, 23, Toronto – Redwood Strategic Inc.
- Edward Yao, 24, Toronto – TeamBuy.ca
This year’s FuEL Awards winners were selected through a combination of public votes (20% of a candidate’s final score) and review by a blue- ribbon panel of judges against the following criteria:
- Product/service innovation – 25%
- Community building/social responsibility – 15%
- Job creation/employment practices – 15%
- Commercial results/potential – 25%)
The judging panel included:
- Jean-Sebastien Cournoyer, General Partner, Real Ventures
- Harley Finkelstein, Chief Platform Officer, Shopify
- Kunal Gupta, CEO, Polar Mobile
- Mike Jagger, President, Provident Security
- Raymonde Lavoie, President, DesArts communication
- Mark McLean, Vice President, Regional Operations, Canadian Youth Business Foundation
- Margot Micallef, President, Oliver Capital Partners
- Alec Morley, Senior Vice President, Small Business Banking, TD Canada Trust
- Sarah Prevette, Founder, Sprouter.com
- W. Brett Wilson, Chairman, Prairie Merchant Corp.