MSE undergraduate and tech entrepreneurship@SFU program student chosen to be one of the Next 36

A Simon Fraser University Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE) undergraduate and tech entrepreneurship@SFU (tech e@SFU) program student has been selected for this year’s prestigious Next 36 program. It has been a dream for Abdurakhman Smazov to launch his own tech venture and change the world through technology.

“After taking an introduction to entrepreneurship class at SFU, I was inspired to make things that were useful, that solved real life problems,” says Smazov. “This led me to join tech e@SFU, bringing engineering and business students together to generate ideas and build products that solve problems that matter.”

Smazov is now a proud co-founder of Orello Hearing Technologies. The company’s mission is to help the world hear. There are 360 million people worldwide suffering from a debilitating hearing loss, yet the current global hearing aid market is serving only 10% demand. Smazov’s team developed a hearing aid that users can custom mold to their ears and tune to their required frequency.

“Normally these two tasks are done by a specialist, like an audiologist,” explains Smazov. “If you purchase from a specialist, the average price is thousands of dollars, and we can sell a hearing aid directly for a lot less. Where we think we will have the greatest impact is in the developing world – where there are no specialist resources to help.”

The idea to develop this product came from the tech e@SFU program. “We formed inter-disciplinary teams, identified a problem to solve, and developed a pitch to an industry panel for some prototyping funds – we received seven thousand dollars,” says Smazov.

Three members of the team were part of the Venture Connection co-op term. Venture Connection made it possible for the team to focus on further product development, provided access to lab facilities, and gave regular one-on-one mentorship. “We expanded our network, as our mentor Peter Payne introduced us to experts in the manufacturing process – this has been invaluable. We intend to produce 50 units to start selling in 2017," says Smazov.

Being selected for the 2017 Next 36 program will further grow the company. The program aims to accelerate growth of Canada’s most talented young entrepreneurs by providing mentorship, capital and unparalleled founder development.

Each year, 36 young Canadian innovators are chosen with the challenge to build a new business venture or iterate and scale an existing idea with enormous potential. For eight months, these young entrepreneurs are mentored by established Canadian entrepreneurs and business leaders who have been taught by some of the world’s top faculty. Then, the Next 36 young entrepreneurs seek funding from top investors to build their venture.

Smazov’s team will enter the Next 36 focused on scaling their venture so they can take advantage of the program to grow their company, versus building it. “The heavy lifting of research, prototyping and development of a business model has already been done because of the tech e@SFU and Venture Connection co-op programs at SFU,” explains Smazov.

When asked if SFU has changed his view of entrepreneurship and innovation, Smazov responded, “Every single day I have ideas on problems I can help solve. It’s really changed the way I look at products and think of the world. SFU has made it possible to bring what was barely an idea a year ago into a company with the goal of making the world a better place.”

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Smazov is also founder of another start-up called Lingvu – a language exchange platform and non-profit, currently with over 2000 users across North America.