Nfld. & Labrador

There's a reason tech startups are launching from Memorial University, as new award shows

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship was named one of the top five emerging entrepreneurship centres in the world.

Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship recognized as global leader

Florian Villaumé is the director of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship in St. John's. (CBC)

There's been a steady stream of good news announcements on the St. John's tech scene lately, and this one might explain why the success stories keep coming.

The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship has been named one of the top five emerging entrepreneurship centres in the world.

The honour comes from the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centres, and was presented in Stockholm.

"I feel excited. At the same time, I say, how can we do more?" said MCE director Florian Villaumé. "Today we celebrate, tomorrow we focus to grow it even more."

The Memorial University program launched three years ago, with the goal of helping students turn big ideas into big opportunities.

I feel personally inspired.- Florian Villaumé

It started with 20 students and has already grown into a program with 300 students and three successful startups that have earned the backing of venture capitalists.

MCE had an early success with Mysa — a group of students with an idea for a smart thermostat who received more than $2 million in private funding.

Brett Vokey couldn't stop smiling on Thursday, as it was announced his company had landed $550,000 in venture capital funding. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The centre also helped launch CoLab, which created engineering design software and struck gold with $2.7 million in funding from investors in Silicon Valley.

The latest success out of MCE is Breathesuite, started by 23-year-old engineering student Brett Vokey. It's an add-on to traditional inhalers that helps users track whether they are using them properly. Breathesuite was the recipient of $550,000 in private funding this week.

Villaumé said he doesn't want to take away from the success of the students, but said it's a pleasure to watch them turn their ideas into functioning products.

"I feel personally inspired," he said. "We have all those ideas, and people that come up with initiatives that can change the world and change the lives of people while creating an economic impact here in the province."

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