Lianna Genovese, a Health Venture Program (HVP) graduate, recently won the 2020 People’s Choice Award at the Lions Lair pitch competition. The $2,500 prize was one of many that Lianna, and her company ImaginAble Solutions, has won recently.
ImaginAble Solutions creates assistive devices to improve the quality of life for people living with impaired motor function. The company’s first product is a result of a project that Genovese started in her first year of McMaster University's integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences (iBioMed) program. Guided Hands is an assistive device for people living with limited fine motor skills – it aids in writing, painting, drawing, or using a tablet.
Genovese is now in her fourth year of iBioMed and the CEO of her own company. She has spent considerable time outside of her studies building ImaginAble Solutions, refining Guided Hands, and learning what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur.
She recounts feeling "inferior" early in her journey after meetings with industry professionals. “The first couple months of running my company was the hardest on me,” Genovese said. “I didn’t think I could do it. I felt like I wasn’t the right person to do it and I was super upset. Then I made the decision that I wouldn’t back down – that I would pick myself up and educate myself.”
Since then, Genovese has taken advantage of many opportunities within Hamilton’s innovation ecosystem. One of those opportunities was HVP.
“I needed to be part of a program that was specific to healthcare so that I could have experts in that field help me,” she said of her decision to enrol. “It was very easy to take the concepts I learned and apply them to my company since it was very related.”
HVP is a 12-week certificate program for students of varied backgrounds. The program teaches learners how to innovate in the healthcare space by defining problems, designing solutions to the impactful problems, and activating those solutions. At the heart of the program is Sarrah Lal, Assistant Professor of Medicine.
“Sarrah Lal is amazing,” Genovese said. “She helped my company set up meetings with very important people in the medical community which helped us grow… I don’t think I would be here today talking about my win at the Lions Lair competition if I didn’t have the mentorship to build [my] business background."
To complete the HVP program, Genovese had to create and deliver a 10-minute pitch for Guided Hands to several stakeholders within the Hamilton health sciences community. Soon after, she needed to create a pitch as part of her Lions Lair application.
“All of the components that I needed for my [application] were things that I learned in HVP,” she said.
She became one of 16 Lions Lair finalists and spent the summer meeting with Innovation Factory mentors to prepare for the competition that took place from September 21-24, 2020.
“Winning the People’s Choice Award was incredible. I can’t even explain the feeling I get thinking about the people out there who watched and believe in Guided Hands, believe in me, and believe in ImaginAble Solutions – it’s amazing.”
Genovese will continue the progression of Guided Hands as part of The Clinic’s Residency Program this year. The program's mentors will help her bridge gaps in knowledge and networks.
Genovese envisions herself as a mentor one day. She is grateful for the advice she has received on her journey so far and is eager to pay it forward. She already has advice for people who are trying to break into the health innovation space: identify your purpose and ask for help.
“Find your passion. Find your inspiration. Hold that very close to your heart in everything that you do. You’re going to need to use it when you reach some low moments," she said. “And it’s okay not to know everything. Don’t feel like it’s a bad thing to reach out for help. That is why the Health Venture Program and The Clinic exist. You’re going to get there and there are opportunities to help.”