U of T Entrepreneurship Week: Two ChemE startups to watch

This article was adapted for Chem Eng NewsRead the full list of startups to watch at U of T News.

With nearly a dozen startup incubators and accelerators spread across its three campuses, the University of Toronto is a thriving hotbed of entrepreneurial activity — even amid the pandemic.

U of T Engineering entrepreneurs and their startups are finding innovative solutions to pressing problems — all while creating jobs and strengthening Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

As U of T’s virtual Entrepreneurship Week kicks off, here are two exciting ChemE startups to keep an eye on in 2021:

Themis

The team from Themis uses AI to create a Microsoft Office add-in that saves hours of time drafting legal papers. The students’ startup pitch took home the grand prize at this year’s Demo Day (photo courtesy of Themis)

Themis, a startup whose co-founders include U of T Engineering students Cindy Chen(Year 4 EngSci) and Amardeep Singh (Year 3 ChemE), has developed an AI program that helps significantly reduce the time it takes to draft legal contracts.

The company’s AI-powered Microsoft Word add-in automatically builds a library of clauses from a lawyer’s precedents and makes those available within Word.

Last September, Themis took home the $20,000 top prize at Demo Day, the culmination of an intensive four-month entrepreneurship and mentorship program at the Entrepreneurship Hatchery at U of T Engineering.

“There are no competitors who provide this fully integrated solution out of the box,” said Rishi Dhir, one of two lawyers — alongside Jey Kumarasamy — who co-founded the company with Chen and Singh.

Going forward, Themis is looking to continue to test its prototype and partner with small law firms across Canada to garner feedback.

HOPE Pet Foods

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Sofia Bonilla, a U of T post-doctoral researcher who is preparing to launch a line of alternative-protein pet foods, already has her dog Snuffie gobbling up insect-based treats (photo courtesy of Sofia Bonilla)

Bugs aren’t on most dog and cat owners’ pet food shopping lists, but U of T Mississauga’s HOPE Pet Foods is looking to change that by using insects and other alternative sources of protein to produce pet foods that are both eco-friendly and nutritious.

Founded by post-doctoral researcher Sofia Bonilla (ChemE), HOPE Pet Foods is producing dog food made with insect proteins and cat food made with algae-based proteins.

Bonilla, the mother of two small children and owner of an enthusiastic insect-protein-eating dog named Snuffie, was recently a semi-finalist in Scotiabank’s Total Mom Pitch Competition. HOPE Pet Foods also picked up the second place prize in the Adams Sustainability Innovation Prize and has received support from U of T’s Lo Family Social Venture Fund.

“What we think we can bring to the market is an evidence-based, scientific approach, where we are really looking at the evidence behind dog nutrition and the best possible protein is the one with all the amino acids, but is also sustainable,” Bonilla recently said, adding that HOPE Pet Foods’ products will also appeal to consumers who care about their products being cruelty-free.


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