New Brunswick

Body-heat phone chargers and other big ideas from Startup Saint John

Would-be entrepreneurs gathered in Saint John over the weekend to come up with the next big, amazing business idea — all in 54 hours.

'A weekend like this can spark the next great idea,' says organizer Ashley Frank

Novum Industria, a team made of up of Katie Leith, in picture at left, Nick Wells, 22, Scott Coombs, 36, and Jasmine Zhang, 49, took home top prize at Startup Saint John on the weekend. (Submitted by Ian Fogerty)

Forget the clunky battery case or car USB power adaptor. A new Saint John company called Novum Industria is imagining a future where phones are charged using body heat.

"It's a wristband, like a Fitbit," said Katie Leith, 19. "Body heat goes into the band, into a conductor, which turns it into electrcity."

The concept is one of several so-crazy-it-just-might-work ideas pitched by would-be entrepreneurs this weekend at Startup Saint John.

Novum Industria — a team made of up Leith, Nick Wells, 22, Scott Coombs, 36, and Jasmine Zhang, 49 — took home to top prize at this weekend's event.

Build a business in 54 hours

More than 50 people took part in the competition, part of a circuit of similar events hosted by the international entrepreneur network Techstars.

"People come together with a business idea, come together with like-minded people, and build a business from the concept to the actual pitch to investors — all in 54 hours," said organizer Ashley Frank.

If Novum Industria hopes to bring the product to market, there's a lot of work that will have to happen first. Leith said the team hopes to partner with UNB's Brilliant Labs to refine the technology.

The team name Novum Industria is Latin for 'new energy.' The concept is for a wristband that uses body heat to charge electronic devices. (Submitted by Ian Fogerty)

"It's not actually patented and invented yet, but we have our prototype made and we're planning to develop it as soon as we can," Leith said.

Leith, who is originally from Ontario, said she came from Moncton to the event at the urging of one of her teachers in her business entrepreneurship class at Oulton College who heard her idea and thought it had potential.

"I didn't think things like this were happening in New Brunswick," she said. "You see a lot of this stuff happening [in other provinces] but it's great to see it here, too."

Other pitches included a craft brewery subscription box, and a platform that gives parents real-time updates from their kids in daycare, Another concept, TapSmart, proposed doing away with paper receipts forever by allowing users to tap their phone to accept the receipt info.

National competition

A panel of judges heard pitches from each of the teams and evaluated them based on "the overall concept, whether this is a need that's actually needed in the market, and the viability of the business model," said Frank.

As the winner, Novum Industria now has the opportunity to make a virtual pitch in the national competition, Techstars Canada.

'I didn’t think things like this were happening in New Brunswick,' said Katie Leith. 'You see a lot of this stuff happening [in other provinces] but it’s great to see it here, too.' (Submitted by Ian Fogerty)

Even if the ideas don't make it to market, Frank said, events like Startup Saint John can be a valuable catalyst for networking and brainstorming.

"Our hope is that you come out of the weekend with a viable business that you can continue to build," Frank said.

"But even if you don't, you've still had a great experience — and gained knowledge of how to build a business."

A weekend like this can spark the next great idea."