UW alumni take on the ‘Dragons’

(Photo by Cristina Rucchetta)

Two University of Waterloo (UW) alumni will appear on the CBC television show Dragon’s Den to promote their startups.

Dragon’s Den is a show on which entrepreneurs can present their ideas to business experts in hopes of getting funding.

Taped last spring, the episode will be an all student show and will air on Oct. 31.

Rohan Mahimker, co-CEO of SMARTeacher.ca, recalled the moment he and partner Alexander Peters were first encouraged to audition for the show.

“We were recommended that we go on the show by a bunch of our friends so we went and auditioned. We didn’t hear anything for a month and a half,” Mahimker recalled.

“And then out of the blue, we got a call from CBC TV producers, saying that they want us on the show on Sunday morning and we had forty-eight hours to prepare. It was very sudden but we managed to pull together in the end.”

SMARTTeacher.ca, a venture that was originally a fourth year final project while Mahimker was studying mechatronics engineering at UW, is an online interactive and educational game which responds to a child’s emotions. Mahimker contributed his personal experiences towards the project.

“At a younger age I realized the importance of engagement and learning,” Mahimker said.

“I used to do Kumon for math and it was not fun at all. It was just a bunch of questions and there just had to be a new way of doing things and engaging kids.”

Mahimker and Peters, both engineers, began to design a learning game to keep kids engaged for as long as possible and teach them more efficiently. They developed a wireless biosensor to sense and respond to a child’s emotion that can show they are frustrated, bored or engaged.

Mahimker is not the only UW student who was selected to impress the five dragons. Hongwei Liu and Desmond Choi launched a program called MappedIn, a Smartphone application that helps people navigate through malls, city buildings and business districts.

“When someone walks into a shopping centre, instead of those all-paper directories, now you can look it up and say that you are looking for jeans and it will show you where they are, where they’re on sale and what your friends think,” Liu shared.

When auditions were first taking place last February, Choi had asked Liu and the rest of their team who wanted to go and be the representative. Liu had said that he and other members of the team were unable to make the auditions due to other commitments.

“No one from our team could go because we were all busy, so Desmond went,” Liu explained.

“He wowed them at the auditions, he got us in.  And then him and I went to Toronto in April and actually filmed the show.”

Both entrepreneurs said that they cannot reveal the outcome of their time on the show until after the episode has aired.

However, both entrepreneurs are pleased with the advertising that the show has provided and their businesses are looking ahead at the future.

“Since then, we have grown phenomenally. In terms of impact, we’ll have to see after the show,” Mahimker hinted. “The producers told us that what we pulled off had not happened in a very long time in a positive way. So it’s going to be a pretty exciting show,” Liu added.

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