UBC student start-up wins top prize at global entrepreneurship competition

Curos Labs at KnowledgeWorks Global Student Entrepreneurship Challenge

Curos Labs Inc, a start-up founded by applied science and commerce students in UBC’s popular New Venture Design course, received a $10,000 prize for presenting the “most outstanding intangible product” at Virginia Tech’s KnowledgeWorks Global Student Entrepreneurship Challenge.


The UBC team’s product, known as CheckPoint, enables people with chronic pain – loosely defined as pain that lasts longer than three months – to quickly and easily track, analyze and understand their pain episodes in real time.


By offering more unbiased insight into a person’s experience of pain, including changes in pain severity and the context of such changes, CheckPoint may lead to improved treatment, reduced recovery time and a better quality of life for those suffering from chronic pain – a condition that affects approximately one in five Canadians and an estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide.


“We’re really excited about the prize,” says Alexander Toews (BASc ’17), a Curos Labs co-founder who, together with Tristan Burgoyne (BComm ’17), represented the company in Virginia. “It’s a great honour to be recognized at this level of competition, and the prize money will be huge in enabling our business to take the next step.”


The Entrepreneurship Challenge is the main event at the annual VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership Event, which is now in its eighth year. Aimed at supporting and celebrating student entrepreneurship, the Challenge judged teams on a number of criteria, including their ability to convey the existence of a viable market for their product or service and their competitive advantage in that market.


“Overall, the competition was an incredible experience,” says Burgoyne. “It's a lot of learning and also really fun.”


Uncontrolled pain is linked to depression and suicide, as well as increased morbidity and mortality following surgery, and is the most common cause of disability within the working-age population in Canada. In addition to its negative physical, psychological and emotional effects, chronic pain is a massive economic burden: pain-related costs – direct healthcare costs, as well as indirect costs due to loss of productivity – total over $43 billion per year in Canada, which is more than the cost of cancer, heart disease and HIV combined.


Curos Labs, which previously won first place at the UBC Life Sciences Start-up Competition, is currently continuing to develop and test their product with early adopters.


“For any early-stage technology start-up, the journey can be a roller coaster,” says Paul Cubbon, the team's instructor in the New Venture Design course. “What has impressed me about [Curos Labs] is their willingness to deal with disappointing findings and re-work and re-test their plans, from both technical and user perspectives. There is a systematic process to go from idea to product, and they had the discipline and persistence to get there.”