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UOIT-connected startup company’s multi-million dollar success

Kickstarter campaign amasses nearly $3 million for the 3D printer company

Tiko 3D team. From left: Sharon Charitar, Business Analyst; Matt Gajkowski, Chief Executive Officer; Michael Zhang, Supply Chain Manager (image courtesy: Ontario Centres of Excellence).
Tiko 3D team. From left: Sharon Charitar, Business Analyst; Matt Gajkowski, Chief Executive Officer; Michael Zhang, Supply Chain Manager (image courtesy: Ontario Centres of Excellence).

As University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Mechanical Engineering students Matt Gajkowski and Michael Zhang prepare to enter their final year of undergraduate studies, they certainly already have plenty of incredible memories to reflect upon. The past year of their Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science program has been a whirlwind for the enterprising young student-entrepreneurs.

The story begins with Gajkowski (CEO) and Zhang (Supply Chain Manager) teaming with Sharon Charitar (Business Analyst) to create the prototype for an affordable and easy-to-use 3D printer. Their vision to bring Delta printing technology to the masses in a desktop device led to the launch of their very own business – Tiko 3D.

“Our timing to launch Tiko 3D probably could not have been better, thanks to the emergence of a powerful entrepreneurial culture at the university and in the community,” explains Gajkowski. “Most startup companies struggle in their earliest days because they are not able to find key resources like capital and structural supports to accelerate their business plan. But our vision was well-received right off the bat and we were one of the winners of the local competition for entrepreneurs.”

That contest was the 2014 Ignite Competition, an event designed by Spark Innovation Centre in Durham Region. The $25,000 General Entrepreneur prize helped Tiko 3D open the door to doing more to further refine their product before releasing it.

“Spark Centre has been our biggest partner in all this. We met them through the UOIT Entrepreneurship Cafés, and they expressed an eagerness to help. They're a great organization with a good mission. The Ignite Competition and our subsequent enrolment into Spark’s Thrive incubator have been instrumental in our success.”

“The Tiko team is a winner!” says Dennis Croft, President and CEO, Spark Innovation Centre. “They are committed to launching a high-quality product for an affordable price and proved it to all of us with a physically existent product. We are very excited to be a part of their accelerated journey.”

Fast forward to April 2015: Tiko 3D was ready to test the market. The company boldly put its Unibody 3D printer into a month-long Kickstarter campaign. The goal: raise $100,000 in 30 days. When the Kickstarter campaign ended, Tiko 3D had a stunning $2.95 million in pre-orders for its printer.

“The early buy-in was nothing short of phenomenal, and in fact, it was fast and furious,” says Gajkowski. “We blew past our goal in only three hours! Support was steady throughout the entire month. It was really exciting to see the idea take off and gain so much endorsement.”

“We could not be more thrilled to see UOIT’s student-entrepreneurs find such tremendous success right from the get-go,” says David Pamenter, Executive-in-Residence (Entrepreneurship), UOIT. “We are building a vibrant entrepreneurial atmosphere at the university. As our regional economy evolves, we need to ensure we have the best possible supports in place to help our students develop great ideas and potentially turn them into great new companies.”

“Entrepreneurship has never been for the faint of heart, but networking opportunities such as UOIT’s FastStart* program and the UOIT Entrepreneurship Cafés are invaluable to help breathe confidence and wisdom into young minds that might otherwise give up their dreams in the name of security,” says Gajkowski. “The presentations were informative and the people supportive. Overall it was a great learning opportunity.”

Tiko 3D has set the bar pretty high for entrepreneurs who follow. What happens next for Tiko?

“A startup has to sell itself as much as its product,” says Gajowski. “Tiko is characterized by a relentless pursuit of technological innovation, and our R&D list says a great deal about who we are and where we're going. We owe a huge thank you to everyone who backed us, believed in us and shared our vision of accessible 3D printing. Thanks to the growing entrepreneurial culture at UOIT and in Durham Region, we live in a world where all inventors can pursue their dreams. It really has been an amazing journey, and hopefully it’s all just the beginning.”

*FastStart is funded by the Campus-Linked Accelerators / On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (CLA/OCEA) program, an initiative of the Government of Ontario under the Youth Jobs Strategy. The CLA/OCEA program is managed by Ontario Centres of Excellence.

Media contact
Bryan Oliver
Communications and Marketing
University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)
905.721.8668, ext 6709

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