Financial tech startup goPeer wins top prize in York's LaunchYU Accelerator program

A financial technology startup that makes non-traditional lending accessible on a peer-to-peer platform has won the top prize in York University’s LaunchYU Accelerator program this year.

Randy Williamson, partner, Aird & Berlis LLP and Marc-Antoine Caya, goPeer co-founder

As the first prize winner, goPeer will receive the $25,000 Aird & Berlis StartupSource Market Entry Award that includes $12,500 in cash and an equal amount in Aird & Berlis LLP legal services. It will also receive a $10,000 LaunchYU Accelerator Award.

“Aird & Berlis has been delighted to sponsor the LaunchYU Accelerator program for the last four years. As a firm, we know we will succeed if new businesses can develop to their full potential. And that potential needs support,” said Randy Williamson, partner, Aird & Berlis LLP, who is also a York University alumnus and a member of the Board of Governors. “If we can help these businesses set up effective business structures and relationships among their owners, investors and business counterparts, it will allow these great entrepreneurs to focus on building their business’s products and customers. By providing legal services and funding, we help play a small role in their success.”

Innovation York’s LaunchYU Accelerator program supports entrepreneurs at different stages of growth. It assists emerging entrepreneurs through dedicated workshops with hands-on experience, one-on-one mentorship, investor office hours and various networking resources.

“At York University, we are committed to encouraging and supporting motivated, emerging entrepreneurs who have innovative approaches to creating products and services that make an impact in their local communities and around the world,” said Sarah Howe, assistant vice-president, Innovation & Research Partnerships. “Partnering with organizations such as Aird & Berlis, we are able to meaningfully support promising entrepreneurial ventures and see them succeed.”

Since it was started in late 2014, LaunchYU has supported more than 320 ventures and hundreds of entrepreneurs. These ventures have raised more than $18 million in funding and have generated over $3.6 million in revenues.

This year’s program included 14 participants, who have created entrepreneurial ventures from a social app for postsecondary students to an AI and quantum computing based platform that taps wireless market.

Founders of goPeer were among the five finalists who showcased the viability of their businesses, pitching to a panel of judges, private investors and partners, which concluded the four-month accelerator program.

“As a financial technology company, goPeer is built on trust, and winning this prize is a great validation from respected members of the startup community. We look forward to working with the teams at Innovation York and Aird & Berlis to achieve our goal of helping individuals to attain financial wellness,” said Marc-Antoine Caya, goPeer co-founder.

Lactiga, a biotherapeutics company that has patented an anti-infective therapy to help immunocompromised patients placed second. The third place went to Spot App, a social enterprise mobile app that facilitates employers and employees to access the gig economy, online. Both ventures will receive a LaunchYU Accelerator Award of $10,000.

This year’s judging panel included Snita Balsara, investment manager at MaRS IAF & StartUP Ventures; Susan Sim, digital specialist at McKinsey & Company; and Althea Wishloff at Panache Ventures.