One year ago Madeleine Liu and Angela Wang had a great idea — what about creating smart cutlery that could detect allergens, nutrients and toxins in food?
They presented their idea at the Startup Weekend in Vancouver last fall, and went on to win first place. And so began a whirlwind year.
Their company is called Culitech and the smart cutlery is currently in the research-and-development phase as the team looks to hone the near-infrared spectrometry technology used to analyze the molecular breakdown of food.
Liu and Wang are 16-year-old Grade 12 students from West Point Grey Academy.
"Regardless of age, I find that in the startup community you're appreciated for your idea and what you present to the table but not for who you are or your background," said Liu. "Our age and experience is typically an obstacle but for us, we've felt very welcomed."
Liu and Wang are presenting a TED-style talk at the upcoming event: Whistler's International Day of the Girl. They will join Whistler's Shannon Susko, CEO coach and serial entrepreneur as well as Devon Brooks, co-founder of Blo, a Blow Dry Bar chain with more than 70 locations globally. The Canadian premiere of the movie Dream, Girl will follow the three TED-style talks.
This is the second year Susko has sponsored the event.
The theme this year is "Sparkle and Grit," two words that really speak to Susko.
"Sparkle is what you're passionate about and grit is a learned thing," she said. "You can learn it; you can learn to get things done.
"You don't have to be the best at anything to win; you just have to have the commitment to do so."
In 2011, the United Nations declared Oct. 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child with a mission "to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls' lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential."
If the day had never been declared, Susko said, there would still be a need to do an event like this, and not just for girls. This is about supporting all local youth and encouraging them to believe in their ideas.
Take Culitech's founders: their idea was borne out of a desire to help fight the spread of helicobacter pylori, an orally-transmitted bacterium, common in China. It has snowballed into a startup company that could change the way the world eats.
Though both Liu and Wang are busy with school, it comes down to the desire to see their idea come to fruition.
"I guess it's really up to: If you want it, you have to do it," said Liu.
"It's something that you're thinking about regularly so it's part of you. It changes the way you see things."
Whistler is a great place to celebrate the International Day of the Girl; this is a community filled with really successful people whether in sports, arts or entrepreneurship, said Susko.
"This community understands what it takes to get it done... and it's just a matter of giving back to local youth and making sure that conversation is happening, that these things don't just happen without the support of a lot of people."
The event will be held at Rainbow Theatre, by the Whistler Conference Centre, on Wednesday Oct. 12 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The tickets are $10 and are available online at: ticketzone.com/event/504. All proceeds are going to the Howe Sound Women's Centre and One Horizon.