Exigence Technologies makes pitch to global investors

Winnipeg company started by University of Manitoba MBA students

Two students from the University of Manitoba’s Asper school of business are now making pitches to large multi-national companies as part of their effort to market an innovative technology first patented at the U of M.

Zach Wolff, who is a few courses away from graduating with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the U of M, is the executive director of Exigence Technologies, a company that seeks to develop and market a unique anti-microbial technology.

Sheri Governo, vice-president of business development and administration for the company, is an MBA graduate who gave up her day job as a respiratory therapist at the Health Sciences Centre in order to start the company with Wolff.

Governo told the Manitoban that development of their product is proceeding rapidly, with the co-founders making pitches to multi-national companies to market the product on a broad scale.

“Our goal is to get this technology out to big multi-national companies,” Governo said.

“Zach and I have met with many of these companies and begun to discuss our technology.”

The technology was originally invented by Song Liu, associate professor in the department of medical microbiology at the U of M. The technology is a compound that allows chlorine to act as a magnet, killing bacteria more effectively than other disinfectants with less toxicity. It also ensures that bacteria killing agents recharge more rapidly than in other disinfectant compounds.

Wolff and Governo were first exposed to Liu’s research in a course taught by Stuart Henrickson, the executive director of the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship.

In the course, titled Business Venture Analysis, students were presented with “promising U of M developed technologies that had been patented and had potential for commercialization,” Governo said. The presentations were made by Darren Fast, director of the Technology Transfer Office, which oversees intellectual property of over 400 patents at the U of M.

As a result of this presentation, Wolff and Governo created a business plan for the class based on Liu’s technology. They eventually presented the plan at national business competitions with the help of the Centre for Entrepreneurship.

“Stu [Henrickson]’s help was instrumental in helping us identify a viable business model and learning how to present our plan to investors,” Governo said. “The Asper school and Stu Clark Centre fund selected student teams to attend business planning competitions each year, to represent the school and compete.

“The judges’ comments at these competitions helped us refine the business plan substantially and begin the transformation into what the business plan is today,” Governo said.

Wolff and Governo originally conceived of Exigence Technologies as a means of applying the technology to a medical setting. They believed the company would eventually evolve into a processing facility where they would treat medical textiles with their unique disinfectant compounds.

But while the medical applications of the technology remain integral to their business model, Exigence Technologies has since realized their compound has a wide variety of applications, including water remediation and food processing.

“There are so many potential applications of this technology,” Governo said, adding that they are currently working on adapting the technology to metallic surfaces in order to prevent the spread of bacteria.

“We are now looking at using it in food processing to prevent cross-contamination in their processing equipment […] There are a lot of conveyor belts that are used in food processing, and the food travels down the conveyor belt and if one of the pieces is contaminated then it can spread to other pieces and you tend to have product recall.”

In addition to expanding the application of their technology, Governo said that Exigence now seeks to partially sidestep the regulatory hurdles of processing the technology themselves by going directly to companies with expertise in moving through the regulatory process and eventually marketing products with strong brand recognition.

“We meet with them, do presentations, and otherwise have conversations with them about this technology about how it works, what it can do, what its potential applications are, and try and work out what the priorities of that specific company are,” Governo said, adding that she is very hopeful about the future of the company after just over a year in operation.