Waterloo medical startup wins first Entrepreneurship World Cup

A medical technology startup co-founded by two Waterloo Engineering students topped more than 100,000 applicants to take first place and the $500,000 prize in an international competition staged in Saudi Arabia.

NERv Technology, which is based out of the Velocity Garage in downtown Kitchener, won the Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC) following a startup boot camp and several rounds of competition in Riyadh.

Launched by alumni Youssef Helwa (BEng ’15, nanotechnology engineering, MASc ’17, electrical engineering) and Amr Abdelgawad (BEng ’16, nanotechnology engineering, MBET ’17), the company is developing a device to proactively detect leakage of gastrointestinal fluid into the abdominal cavity after surgery.

“We have been working really hard for almost five years to make sure we have a device that can actually have an impact on people’s lives and I think we are one step closer to that,” Abdelgawad said after winning the top prize this week.

“It was really nice being here. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, so it is great to come back and see this country the way it is right now, and it is absolutely fantastic to win the EWC here.”

The achievement represents just the latest in a wave of wins for Waterloo startups. The annual Deloitte Technology Fast 50 ranking, released just this week, found three companies founded by University of Waterloo alumni are the fastest-growing technology firms in Canada. A total of 11 Waterloo startups were in the Top 50.

An initiative of Misk Global Forum and the Global Entrepreneurship Network, the event’s supporters include King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

More than 102,000 startups from 187 countries applied for the contest, which featured three-minute pitches and questions by judges including Canadian businessperson and television personality Kevin O’Leary.

The finals included startups from India, China, the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Argentina.

NERv has a patent pending on a sensory platform capable of detecting leaks from the gastrointestinal tract within minutes. The device addresses a potentially fatal problem that affects more than 100,000 patients a year in the U.S. alone.

In addition to founders Helwa and Abdelgawad, the company includes Waterloo Engineering alumnus Abdallah El-Falou (MASc ’17, electrical engineering) as chief technology officer.

Last month, NERv secured $1 million in pre-seed funding from physician angel investors, a hospital and a venture capital company.

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