Lion's Lair 2013: 10 finalists compete for $100,000

From 60 applicants down to 10 finalists, these local companies, ranging from a maker of custom hockey skates to an online fashion marketplace, will fight to be the best in the city.
The 10 finalists have to pitch to these five Lions to win the top prize. (Supplied)

From 60 to 20, and now down to 10. These are this year's Lion's Lair finalists: 10 Hamilton companies that will vie for the prize of being one of the city's most promising companies.

This group covers a variety of industries, from healthcare to hockey skates, fashion to food, automated furniture to drinking water systems.

From here, the companies will go through extensive training to prepare them for media interviews, expanding their client-base and eventually, making a pitch to the Lions, five local, successful business people.

Here are this year's finalists.

Golf Scoring

A website-based, real-time scoring system for golf leagues. Pat Alpaugh, an avid golfer, wanted to fill a need at his own private golf club. The league was just getting so big and difficult to manage, he and friend David Burnham designed an online program to manage players and scores about 7 years ago. Alpaugh's club started getting calls from other clubs wanting to buy the program.

All that is required is entering each participant's gross score, and the system calculates the results and posts them to the website and the golf club's TVs immediately. Scoring can also be viewed remotely by club members who are starting late or missing a game.

Along with David Weiss, the trio has been marketing the program for about three years. They have 175 clients across Canada, mostly in Ontario and Alberta. It is available in English and French.

Lusso Living

This innovative company automates furniture. They make cabinetry move up and down and TVs rise from unsuspecting places. Lusso Living's flagship product is the Easy Reach cabinet, which looks like an everyday, normal cabinet, but it has a hidden motor that allows the shelfves inside to move down to make the stored items more accessible.

Peter Rupcic of Lusso Living said the company was just incorporated about two months ago. Rupcic and his two business partners developed the motorized cabinetry about a year ago and realized at trade shows that they were on to something. Their main markets are seniors who want to stay in their homes longer and the physically disabled.


Most people know Near Field Technology as a payment method. You tap your credit card on a payment machine, and voila, your purchase is made. OverAir, lead by McMaster student Ethan Do, uses that same technology in innovative ways.

Do and his team employ a tag system. Each tag has a chip in it that holds a bit of data that can be transferred to a device, like a smartphone, when it's tapped or waved above the chip. Do said OverAir's "secret sauce" is a web portal, that allows companies to alter the data inside the clip once the tags have been distributed and show analytics about how the tags are being used. In Hamilton, restaurant August 8 is piloting a project using the tags on tables. Customers can tap the tag, a menu pops up on the device and they can call the server over when they are ready to order.

OverAir also supplies the tags, one of the few Canadian companies to do so. Do just started his business in October of last year and already has over 100 clients.

Pain QuILT

Pain QuILT is a web-based pain assessment tool, developed by McMaster University professor emeritus James Henry and PhD student Chitra Laloo. With input from people living with chronic pain, healthcare professionals and scientific research, Henry and Laloo invented way for patients to visually express the pain they feel. Pain is a subjective measure, Henry said, and there is a void in helping physicians understand how people experience chronic pain.

The QuILT - which stands for quality, intensity, location, tracking - tool uses icons, like a matchstick for burning pain or a hammer for pounding pain. The patient drags an icon on an image of the body, and then provides a 1-10 rating for intensity. Physicians anywhere can access the assessments, and the program spits out a graph to show how pain is experienced over time.

Prevori Flow Control

David Billings designed a new treatment system they call the Shaft Valve Water Treatment Plant. It's for use at home or on the road. Water runs through a series of valves and vessels to filter out microorganisms we don't want in our water. The system makes rainwater, and even water with some pollutants, drinkable. It has uses in city households, in disaster areas and abroad.

The system is not commercially available yet. Billings filed for a patent in 2005, but is still waiting.

Roux Commissary

Located in Hamilton's north end, Roux is Ontario's first full-service, shared commercial kitchen. Its owners strive to create a 'culinary incubator' for local entrepreneurs in the city's bustling food industry. The team of six, headed by Susan and Scott Austin, provides everything from parking for food truck owners, round-the-clock kitchen time and graphic design.

The Austins are well-versed on the needs of culinary entrepreneurs, having been ones a short time ago. They were co-founders of Gorilla Cheese, Hamilton's grilled cheese food truck.

Roux officially opened in March and has 14 clients to date, a mix of food trucks and local caterers.  Susan said they are well on their way of meeting their goal of 45 clients by year-end.

RZR Skate Blades

Hockey skates, redefined. RZR manufactures and designs hockey skate blades with custom technology for improved performance on the ice. Brothers Chris and Mike Verticcio joined forces with Nick Montecchia to create a superior blade. Mike runs a local pro-shop and was frustrated with the quality of the blades on the skates he saw. So, in true entrepreneurial style, they made their own.

RZR blades have a harder edge, tougher core and reduce kinetic friction for a better glide.

The Verticcios and Montecchia just received their first mass product run and the blades will be available for purchase online in the coming weeks. Right now, local junior teams and professional players are using the blades.

Schopf Innovation - Wedgie

The Wedgie is a product inspired by cyclist Tom Schopf 'sdesire to beat a friend in bike races. His thought - being more aerodynamic-- would shave just enough time off his race to cross the finish line first.

That's how the Wedgie came about. It's an aerodynamic way to store tools, water bottles and more on your bike. The Wedgie attaches to a bike's frame, in between the wheels. It's made from a lightweight carbon fibre, with an inner compartment for tools and spare tubes. A water bottle attaches to the top. It's a universal design for bikes and water bottles. Schopf said the Wedgie saves cyclists about 386 grams on their bike.

Schopf has been selling the product since 2010. The Wedgie can be found on bikes around the world.

Trend Trunk

If you're the type who looks in the closet and thinky ou've got nothing to wear, Trend Trunk might help you out. Sean Synder created an online marketplace for fashionistas and trend-seekers alike to sell items they're no longer into and shop in other seller's closet. The seller keeps 80 per cent of the sale, and the cash goes back to the bank, into your Trend Trunk account or to any Canadian charity of your choice. Synder said it's a great way to make a cash donation, as it is money from an item the seller may have purchased a few years before.

Trend Trunk started up in September 2012 and already had 30,000 customers across Canada. Synder wants to be North America-wide by the end of the year.


A brand-new app, just developed six weeks ago at Start-Up Hamilton, for people who love to explore cities on foot. Al Mithani, along with a team of seven others, met during the innovation weekend and started working on the app immediately. Mithani said people instantly connected with the idea - people love discovering new cities, or new areas of cities they already know and love.

On your smartphone, users can access city walking tours curated by other users. Choose a "walking category" — Arts and Culture, Romantic, Urban Exploration — and the app takes you on a tour. Users can also upload voice memos to share sounds from their walk.

CBC Hamilton's Julia Chapman will have full coverage of Lion's Lair 2013, including profiles of each of the 10 finalists, an inside look at their training and interviews with the Lions, right up to the gala on Oct. 10.