Posts By: Christina Heidorn

EngSci entrepreneurs advance to next stage at U of T Engineering’s Hatchery Demo Day 2022

Members of the four selected teams at the Hatchery’s Demo Day 2022 stand together at the Visualization Facility in the Myhal Centre. (Photo: Aaron Demeter)

 

EngSci students were among successful competitors at the Entrepreneurship Hatchery’s recent Demo Day 2022.  The team of Aidan Dempster, Mustafa Khan (both Year 3 EngSci ) and Ankit Batra (University of Waterloo) were one of four selected to move on to the Hatchery’s Go-To-Market stage.  The event also launched the Hatchery’s new Build a Team tool, which matches individuals and startups based on skills and interests.

Dempster, Khan, and Batra developed MoveMatch, a platform for advanced motion analysis for use in at-home physiotherapy.

Read the full story in the U of T Engineering News.


Grads to Watch 2022

Graduating students Saanjali Maharaj and Michael McLean (both EngSci 2T1 + PEY)

 

By Safa Jinje & Tyler Irving

With the University of Toronto’s convocation ceremonies on June 16, 2022, U of T Engineering students mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

Having enriched the U of T Engineering community as undergraduate and graduate students, they will join our vibrant, global network of Skule™ alumni, where they will continue to address pressing challenges around the world and inspire the next generation.

This year’s 14 U of T Engineering Grads to Watch — including two EngSci students — embody the spirit of U of T Engineering. Their stories illustrate the creativity, innovation and global impact that define our community. Watch their next steps!


Advancing Sustainable Aviation

Saanjali Maharaj (EngSci 2T1 + PEY)

“I would like to thank the EngSci community for making my time at U of T such a positive experience. I will always remember the days of both commiseration and celebration with my peers, and the tremendous support from the faculty members and upper years. Special shoutout to Professor Peter Grant (UTIAS), my undergraduate thesis supervisor, for his guidance, which will prepare me for the rest of my academic career.”

“My experience at U of T has been a time of discovery,” says Maharaj. “I learned so much about engineering design, innovations in the industry and working as part of a team.”

This time was also a period of self-discovery as her various internships, courses and research experiences helped her find out what she is passionate about, charting the course of her career.

In 2019, Maharaj had “the amazing opportunity” to be an intern at the NASA Ames Research Center’s Department of Rotorcraft Aeromechanics.

“I was the thermal lead in developing a drone to help mitigate the prevalent California wildfires,” she says. “Following that experience, I was a thermal-mechanical engineering intern at Intel Corporation.”

A significant achievement from her PEY Co-op at Intel was leading the research for a novel cooling technology that resulted in the submission of a patent application.

Maharaj has held leadership positions in co-curricular activities, including as rocketry division aerodynamics lead on the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT), and marketing director for the University of Toronto West Indian Students’ Association (WISA).

This summer, Maharaj is working on an asteroid mining project in collaboration with MDA. She is also looking forward to starting her MASc this fall at the U of T Institute for Aerospace Studies, where she will be supervised by Professor Prasanth Nair.

Ultimately, she hopes to make a positive contribution to the advancement of sustainable aviation.

“Sustainability is a passion of mine due in part to my Caribbean Island origins,” she says. “Trinidad and Tobago’s dependence on the aviation industry to maintain international connections fuels my desire to mitigate the industry’s environmental impact.”


Customizing Biochemical Constructs

Michael McLean (EngSci 2T1 + PEY)

I want to express my overwhelming gratitude towards Ali Punjani (CEO and co-founder of Structura Biotechnology) for his guidance and mentorship throughout my PEY Co-op term. I also want to thank the rest of the team at Structura for fostering an incredibly inclusive and supportive working environment. Finally, I would like to thank Professor David Fleet (Computer Science) for his valuable guidance and support throughout my undergraduate thesis.”

McLean always knew that he wanted to major in Engineering Physics or Machine Intelligence as an Engineering Science student — but he was so overwhelmed by a fear of failure that he left EngSci for TrackOne on the very first day of classes.

“I let fear control me when I made that decision, but I realized throughout first year that I wanted to learn more physics than would be possible in any other engineering stream,” he says. “So, I chose to let my curiosity and passion lead instead and transferred back.”

Through his classes and work experience, he was able to immerse himself in his passions: biophysics, machine learning and scientific computing.

A highlight of his undergraduate experience was his PEY Co-op at Structura Biotechnology, a startup working on software for cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM). As a scientific developer, he worked on developing statistical inference algorithms for the 3D reconstruction of protein molecules and implementing these algorithms in Structura’s flagship software product, cryoSPARC.

“By the end of my work term, the helical reconstruction project I worked on was deployed in cryoSPARC, which is used by scientists worldwide in over 600 institutions across 40 countries,” he says.

McLean is returning to Structura after graduation — this time as a computational research engineer, working to advance cryo-EM methodology.

“The opportunity to work in such a high-impact area, with tangible benefits to structural biology and drug discovery, is a privilege I could never have foreseen,” he says.

“I now know where my true limits lie, and that I can handle more than I thought. And this knowledge can’t be taken away.”


Read about all U of T Engineering Grads to Watch in the U of T Engineering News.


Engineering Research Day showcases the role of engineers in addressing sustainability issues

people chatting at poster display booths at Engineering Research Day

An attendee stops at an Engineering Research Day booth, which featured research institutes from across U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering (photo by Dewey Chang)

 

By Safa Jinje

Students, alumni, faculty members and industry professionals recently came together to highlight the impact of innovative research and collaborations happening across the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering during the second annual Engineering Research Day.

This year’s theme – Building a Sustainable Future – spotlighted the unique role of engineering professionals in designing solutions to address everything from climate change and transportation to health care and beyond.

“The engineering skill of being able to identify, unpack and solve a problem is our ‘secret sauce,’” said alumna Sandra Odendahl during a fireside chat with Chris Yip, dean of U of T Engineering.

Odendahl is senior vice-president and head of sustainability and diversity at BDC, a bank that supports small and medium-sized businesses. In helping to open the event, she shared how she was able to combine her engineering education and background in environmental impact assessment to tackle sustainability, equity and access issues in the financial sector.

The event also featured a second fireside chat with alumna Laura Burget, co-founder of Three Ships Beauty, as well as four panel discussions on the various intersections between engineering and sustainability.

Many of the questions raised throughout the day focused on the challenges facing sustainability initiatives, including how to change consumer behaviour, how to educate the next generation of engineers in a shifting landscape and how to ask the right questions when designing sustainable solutions.

 

Five panelists and moderator sitting on stage during a panel discussion

Engineering Research Day featured four panels on the intersections between engineering and sustainability, including “Climate Positive and Sustainable Campus” (photo by Dewey Chang)

 

During the day’s final panel – Climate Positive and Sustainable Campus – the conversation shifted towards the idea of learning how to learn, and how that thought process could be applied to building sustainable buildings and spaces.

“We need to constantly be rethinking what it is that we are designing, who we are designing for, where we are designing,” said alumna Priscilla Chew, principal of Purpose Building, Inc., which develops sustainable operational solutions for its clients.

While last year’s event was fully remote, this year’s programming was hybrid – both in-person and online attendees could engage with research institutes such as the Centre for Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Engineering (CARTE), the Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research (SOCAAR), the Institute for Water Innovation (IWI) and the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN) to learn more about the collaborations and investigations happening across engineering disciplines.

“Engineering Research Day is a great opportunity to see the breadth and depth of the sustainability research and boundary-pushing education happening across our Faculty,” says Yip.

“From new ways to harvest and store energy from the sun and wind, to cleaner, more efficient engines that can run on biofuels, to designing better ways to move people through cities, the event illustrated how our students and researchers work well beyond the borders of our campus to create a brighter future for all.”


EngSci alumnus Alfred Aho elected to the National Academy of Sciences

photo of Alred Aho sitting at an office desk with textbooks, one of which is titled Compilers

Photo credit: Eileen Barroso

By Brandon Wesseling

Professor Alfred Aho (EngSci 6T3) was recently elected as a member to the distinguished National Academy of Sciences for his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Alfred V. Aho, the Lawrence Gussman Professor Emeritus of computer science at the Columbia University, is known for his broad and fundamental contributions in algorithm design and analysis, and programming languages and compilers, which translate human-written code into a form that machines can execute. With his longtime collaborator Jeffrey Ullman (SEAS’63), a professor emeritus at Stanford, Aho received computing’s highest honor, the Turing Award, in 2020. Before joining Columbia Engineering in 1995, Aho spent more than three decades at Bell Labs, helping to run the lab that invented UNIX, C, and C++.


Praxis III co-instructor receives Faculty Teaching Assistant Award

photo of Xinyue Crystal Liu smiling to camera, wearing headhpone with cat ears

 

Xinyue Crystal Liu (MSE) is among fourteen staff and faculty members honoured for their leadership, citizenship, innovation and contributions to the Faculty’s teaching, service and research missions.

Liu played a key role in developing EngSci’s new design course, Praxis III.  She also helped design assignments for individual home use when the course had to go online during the pandemic, and has (re)developed content and materials for several other courses.

Read more about Liu and the other U of T Engineering award winners.


Compassion in action: Meet 2022 Troost ILead Difference Maker Award winner Khadija Rana

Khadija Rana looking to camera and smiling, standing in front of an ivy-covered wall

Khadija Rana is the 2022 winner of the Troost ILead Difference Maker Award. (Photo: Negar Balaghi)

 

By Natalia Noël Smith

To Khadija Rana (Year 4 EngSci) being a difference maker is not heroic.

“I want people to know that anyone can do it,” she says. “It’s about recognizing people as the whole beings that they are.”

Rana is the 2022 recipient of the Troost ILead Difference Maker Award. Sanjay Malaviya, a long-serving member of the Troost ILead Board of Advisors, established the award in 2020 through the Bodhi Tree Fund, a private giving foundation. The award recognizes a U of T Engineering undergraduate student for their leadership achievements and their vision for change. It provides $50,000 to help a promising young leader accelerate their steps after graduation.

Rana’s path has not always been easy. When she began her studies, she says she felt isolated and thought she had “a productivity problem.” But that began to change in 2019, when she took advantage of the Troost ILead Summer Fellowship, followed by an engineering course from ILead called The Power of Story. These experiences helped Rana combine her love of engineering with her passions for caregiving and leadership.

A long-time volunteer with Hospice Toronto, Rana has accompanied people through the dying process.

“The skills you apply in engineering and caregiving are not so different,” she says. “In both, I’m listening to people and being present for them. You have to hear someone else’s story and be willing to take action to address that need.”

Rana’s leadership is strongly influenced by the concept of loving kindness.

“I found a definition of this in the book The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck, and another one from author bell hooks, who wrote All About Love: New Visions in 2000. They talk about it as, ‘the will to extend yourself for the growth of other people, and for your own growth.’”

For Rana, the idea of extending yourself to help others resonated with her understanding of the practice of engineering.

“We hear about it during Frosh Week on the first day in the story of Lady Godiva,” she says. “We learn about it through engineering design, in our courses. We celebrate it during the Iron Ring ceremony at the end of our programs. Professors demonstrate it for students when they advocate with them. Club leaders and mentors practice it when they volunteer their time for one another. It’s everywhere.”

Putting this idea into practice, Rana soon became involved in Skule™ life. She joined CUBE, the Club for Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering, eventually becoming its president. She worked with her team to rebuild the organization’s structure, foster self-determination and empower members to shape their own roles.

She also served as a senior Director of U of T’s Biomedical Engineering Design Team, where she led three project teams to collaboratively develop assistive devices for clients across the Greater Toronto Area.

Rana was also able to put the loving kindness ethic into practice as a research trainee at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, where she worked under the supervision of Dr. Azadeh Yadollahi and Dr. Douglas Bradley. Her tasks included guiding patients with severe asthma through voluntary but grueling experiments related to sleep apnea.

In her final year, Rana became President of the U of T chapter of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), leading a 40-member team working to reframe conversations of gender equity by prioritizing allyship and sensitivity to culture and race. She chaired the 2021 U of T WISE flagship international conference, which drew more than 600 participants from 15 countries.

After graduation, Rana plans to pursue research in narrative approaches to community-led design. Grounded in her caregiving experiences, her work will explore how engineering professionals and community stakeholders derive meaning from complex ideas through storytelling to inform technical change.

In the longer term, she has her sights set on a career in medicine where she will advocate for the advancement of narrative approaches to enhance empathy among health-care practitioners and ultimately transform patient care.

When asked how she works with those who may be resistant to her philosophy of compassion, or with whom collaboration presents challenges, she says “It’s important to be curious about what’s making it difficult for them. And to do that, you bravely ask them.”

“Once you’re able to make space for people to be more open about their challenges, you have an intentional conversation with them that’s prioritizing their growth and yours too. It’s not zero sum.”

This story was originally published in the U of T Engineering News.


Meet our alumni: Adam Rosenfield (1T5) helps remake our cities to save our planet

photo of Adam Rosenfeld wearing a bike helmet standing next to a lake with a bicycle in the background

Adam Rosenfield (EngSci 1T5) is a transportation policy advisor in Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.

Adam Rosenfield (EngSci 1T5) likes to look at the big picture, and that’s what led him to earn degrees in both engineering and urban planning. Today, as a senior policy advisor in Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, he draws on his expertise in both fields to tackle the province’s number 1 emitting sector—transportation. And the big picture is a sustainable, equitable future.

Read a conversation with Rosenfield about his career path, his commitment to a sustainable future, and how he is helping to develop new curriculum options for engineering students.


Toronto’s first-ever Black student-run hackathon tackles algorithm bias and builds community

A screenshot of the hackathon taking place in Gather Town, showing a virtual room with tables and chairs, the participants' avatars and their video feeds.

The fourth annual NSBEHacks, a 24-hour virtual hackathon, was hosted on Gather Town. (Screenshot: Genevieve Aguigwo)

 

By Safa Jinje

On March 5, more than 200 participants from across Canada and the U.S. joined NSBEHacks, a 24-hour virtual hackathon. Now in its fourth year, the 2022 event aimed to redesign digital technologies that don’t serve marginalized communities. 

Organized by the U of T chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE U of T), NSBEHacks is the first Black student-run hackathon within the Greater Toronto Area. 

“This year’s theme was ‘Disruptive Innovation,’ and by the end of the weekend, we received an influx of solutions that we could have never envisioned,” says Chetachi Ugwu-Ojobe (Year 3 EngSci), president of NSBE U of T. 

One problem that NSBEHacks teams tackled is algorithm bias, where errors or assumptions in a system’s machine learning process can lead to prejudices and create unfair outcomes. 

D’SpeakerVerse, the team that won first place in the hackathon’s U of T Engineering Challenge, noticed that many voice assistant services alienate individuals by misunderstanding their accents. 

In response to this problem, they created an interactive platform where users can take part in voice games and tongue twisters to test the voice-to-text AI, with the goal of improving accent recognition for voice AI services through collected data.  

“This team was able to create a disruptive innovation by building on something that already exists in the market and opening it up to people who are neglected by these services — people with non-Western accents who are often misunderstood and left frustrated by popular voice services,” says Genevieve Aguigwo (Year 2 MechE), vice-president of NSBE U of T.  

The event also sought to cater to the specific needs of Black audiences in fast-paced digital environments, such as virtual reality.   

The Barbershop team, which won second place in the event’s Google Cloud Challenge, used virtual reality to create a welcoming online space that replicates the sense of community found in many Black-owned barbershops.  

“Barbershops hold a historical significance to many Black communities. It’s not just a place to get a haircut, it can also serve a therapeutic role,” says Ugwu-Ojobe.   

“The Barbershop team created a virtual space that allows people who are unable to visit a barbershop, because of the pandemic or personal challenges, to gather, share information and stay connected with their community.”  

NSBE U of T is committed to supporting participants beyond the hackathon, as they take their designs to the next level.  

“We are partnering with the Black Founders Network to give our design teams a platform to bring their ideas to life and make a business out of it,” says Ugwu-Ojobe.  

“Having a network of people in the industry who they can turn to with questions and reach out to in the future really ties in with NSBE’s own goals to support the professional development of our community,” adds Aguigwo.  

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to increase the representation of Black individuals in engineering and industry.” 

This story originally appeared in the U of T Engineering News.


EngSci students receive leadership award

Headshots of all six UTSLA winners smiling and in front of different backgrounds.

Six graduating EngSci students received a University of Toronto Student Leadership Award. From top left to bottom right: Jacqueline Fleisig, Bipasha Goyal, Aditi Maheshwari, Joanna Melnyk, Khadija Rana, and Rima Uraiqat. (Photos courtesy of the students)

 

Six graduating EngSci students are among 18 U of T Engineering students that have been recognized with University of Toronto Student Leadership Awards (UTSLA) for their leadership, service and commitment that have had a lasting impact on their peers and the university.

The UTSLA continues a long-standing tradition which began with the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, established in 1994 by the University of Toronto Alumni Association in honour of Mr. Gordon Cressy, former Vice-President, Development and University Relations. During the award’s 25-year history, it celebrated the exemplary contributions of more than 4,000 students whose commitment and service had a lasting impact on their peers and the university.

In 2022, 18 U of T Engineering students earned the honour, which recognizes leadership, service and commitment to the university. Their diverse activities include heading up co-curricular organizations such as Engineers Without Borders, leading design teams such as the University of Toronto Aerospace Team, creating a welcoming Frosh Week despite the pandemic, and taking on executive roles in the U of T Engineering Society. They are joined by 166 students from other Faculties across U of T.

U of T Engineering will celebrate this year’s UTSLA recipients with a virtual ceremony hosted by U of T Engineering Dean Christopher Yip, to be held April 27.

“Students like these embody everything that makes our Faculty so special,” said Dean Yip. “Through the activities and accomplishments we are celebrating today, they have made a positive impact on our community, while also discovering new strengths and abilities that will serve them well as they join the next generation of global engineering leaders. I’m so proud of them, and excited for what lies ahead.”

Meet EngSci’s UTSLA winners

As President of the Engineering Society (EngSoc) during these tumultuous times, Jacqueline Fleisig worked with other student groups, health & safety, and the Faculty of Engineering to ensure a safe return to student activities campus. Her work helped ensure that students could interact safely in person outside of the classroom was instrumental for building community after a year of online learning. Among many other activities, she previously served as Co-President of U of T’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), where she founded a three-day conference on social change and leadership in collaboration with three EWB chapters across Ontario.

Bipasha Goyal joined the Club for Undergraduate Biomedial Engineering (CUBE) with the goal of creating an inclusive biomedical engineering community for engineering undergraduates. Through various executive roles she organised networking events with professionals and revamped CUBE’s mentorship program to foster meaningful connections with U of T professors, graduate students, and alumni across the world.  As Co-President she expanded CUBE’s reach beyond engineering to different departments at U of T and shifted its mandate from professional development to complete biomedical engineering immersion, creating the “go-to” student club in this field.  Bipasha also served as Co-Conference Chair for the U of T Society for Stem Cell Research, organizing U of T’s first-ever virtual stem cell undergraduate conference.

Aditi Maheshwari is a dedicated leader in the engineering community who strives to provide a meaningful and enriching community experience. As chair of the Engineering Science Education Conference in 2021, she organized the first-ever virtual version of this cornerstone event for over 600 first- and second-year EngSci students. She helped recruit a diverse and engaging set of speakers, including a Nobel Prize winner. Aditi also served as co-chair of the EngSci Alumni Dinner, an event that strengthens the EngSci alumni community and provides students with valuable networking opportunities. She also contributed to Frosh Week, the HiSkule outreach program, among many other activities.

The contributions that Joanna Melnyk is most proud of are those she made to environmental sustainability work and developments at U of T through technical design projects, research, and sustainability curriculum advocacy. She spearheaded a sustainability curriculum advocacy project while serving in various roles with Engineers Without Borders. The project was further advanced through her change project in the ILead Summer Fellowship. Joanna also helped support students in challenging academic circumstances, through her work with the Toike Oike, Skule Lettuce Club, Orientation Week, and NSight, emphasizing empathy and relational leadership.

As President of the U of T chapter of Women in Science and Engineering, Khadija Rana advocates for gender equity in STEM fields and strives to reframe equity discussions at a global scale in this community of over 1,600 members and over 30 industry partners. During her time as Co-President of the Club for Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering (CUBE), she helped build a new space to connect biomedical engineering undergraduates with graduate mentors. As part of the Engineering Orientation Committee she also helped implement a new training program for 600 volunteers, helping them to welcome over 1,000 engineering students virtually for the first time at Orientation Week 2020.

Rima Uraiqat has put her passion for aerospace into action as a Thermal Systems Lead and Airframe Lead in the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT). She led the design and testing of several technical projects, while managing the external presence of the team. As the Director of Outreach, she organized several events for current students within the Faculty, high school students, and the general public. She contributed to the growth of the team, and increase student engagement in UTAT. As an EngSci Ambassador she also shared her enthusiasm for engineering with prospective students at many recruitment events.

Story, including the full list of U of T Engineering UTSLA winners, from U of T Engineering News


EngSci alumna bolsters U of T’s rapid rise in entrepreneurship space

Phot of Jiayue (Jenny) he wearing a red dress and smiling

Jiayue (Jenny) He (EngSci 0T3 PEY) is the co-founder of a Silicon Valley startup that’s rethinking how home construction and renovation services are delivered (Photo: Jenny He)

By Rahul Kalvapalle

When you think of industries that are being disrupted by technological innovation, fence installation and driveway construction don’t immediately leap to mind.

Jiayue (Jenny) He (EngSci0T3 + PEY) is looking to change that. She’s the CEO and co-founder of Ergeon, a Silicon Valley startup that’s transforming how outdoor home construction and renovation services are delivered.

Ergeon uses video calls and satellite imaging to conduct remote assessment of clients’ properties, before sub-contracting the labour to skilled contractors — essentially owning the process end-to-end. Founded in 2018, the company has completed over 8,000 projects in California alone (it also operates in Texas) and has raised nearly $35 million from investors.

“We’re trying to empower the world to build,” says He, who earned her Bachelor of Applied Science from the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto.

“We’re trying to take a pretty traditional industry — construction is one of the oldest industries since the beginning of time, as long as people have had houses — and bring in innovation, transparency and more access.”

Ergeon is one of more than 400 promising startups that have played a role in U of T’s status as the fastest riser in the 2021 PitchBook rankings for undergraduate programs, which rank universities on how many undergraduate alumni become founders of venture capital-backed companies.

U of T leapt to 27th from 33rd in the rankings last year. The rankings consider companies that received a first round of venture funding between January 2006 and November 2021 — a period in which companies founded by U of T undergraduate alumni raised over $17 billion.

The biggest fundraisers include AI research company OpenAI, enterprise software firm Databricks and pharmaceutical firm Moderna — which is now a household name thanks to its ubiquitous mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.

He says her time at U of T Engineering was foundational to what she went on to achieve. That includes getting comfortable with numbers and instilling a data-driven approach to problem-solving and decision-making. She adds that her engineering education also helped her hone the ability to structure and solve problems.

“I find that universally applicable, no matter what kind of problem I’m solving,” He says.

She also credits the Faculty’s Professional Experience Year Co-op Program (PEY Co-op) with an all-important first exposure to Silicon Valley, where she worked for a semiconductor company.

“That made it very easy for me to make the decision a few years ago to move out here,” she says.

She launched Ergeon after recognizing the home renovation and construction sector needed to become more customer-friendly and transparent — as any homeowner can probably attest — as well as her observation of there being a lack of technology to facilitate skilled blue-collar work.

She says clients have largely embraced the novelty of remote video and satellite-based assessments, but a bigger challenge — especially early on — was convincing workers in the skilled construction trades to interact with a tech startup.

Ergeon’s solution?

“We literally make our app look like texting because that’s what they’re OK with,” He says. “We make all the interfaces look much more old-school — our interface looks like a calendar because that’s in their comfort zone.”

Ergeon has also had to adapt to several non-tech challenges, including the volatility of lumber prices.

“Lumber has been oscillating as wildly as Bitcoin, so that’s been the biggest challenge we’ve had to manage,” He says, adding that the issue has forced Ergeon to take greater control of its supply chain and ordering processes, which has paid off in other ways.

By contrast, when it came to scaling her company to match a rapid uptick demand, He says she found herself better prepared than most. That’s because her previous job at EZ Home, a startup that offers lawn care and yard maintenance services, ballooned from about 10 employees to 250 over a period of just three years.

“When I started Ergeon I wanted to do a lot of things with scalability in mind much earlier,” He explains. “So, we made a few decisions including having super-clear company values and investing in scalable processes and tools from day one.”

She adds that Ergeon’s status as a fully remote operation has also helped the scaling process — and gave the company a head start adapting to the pandemic. As a result, Ergeon this year became one of 32 new U of T entrants in the PitchBook rankings — and among the top three raisers of venture capital in the group.

Going forward, He says she envisions Ergeon progressing from outdoor projects to servicing “the whole home.”

“We started with outside the home first since that’s where technology has the biggest power to do remote assessments, etc.” says He. “But with the latest iPhone, you can now do that much better inside as well.”

“I think we’re just a few years away from that being pretty common and ubiquitous.”

Interested in entrepreneurship?  Check out the upcoming U of T Entrepreneurship Week.


© 2020 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering