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Catching up with Ribbit, one of the Concept $5K Grant Winners

In Fall 2019, Ribbit was crowned one of the winning teams of the Concept $5K Grant. We caught up with Jeremy Chan-Hao Wang, a co-founder also completing his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering. We talked to him about his experience with the competition and learn what their team has been working on since their big win.

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Jeremy Chan-Hao Wang & Carl Pigeon showing off their winnings

Interview with Jeremy Chan-Hao Wang

This interview was conducted by Nicole Smedley. Some answers have been edited to be more concise.

Ribbit is quite the exciting startup! Can you tell us about its mission?
At Ribbit we are retrofitting existing airplanes with our technology to make them fully autonomous – so no pilots needed- and then operating these planes to create the world’s first pilot-less regional cargo airline.

How was your experience with the Concept $5K Grant competition?
I would say that what my co-founder and I found most valuable was the opportunity to get feedback from mentors who had built their own startups and had been through the whole process. We got really great feedback on how to pitch, how to make ideas sound simple and easy to understand, and what to include/not include. The variety of feedback we got from mentors really helped us to ultimately create a winning pitch!

After winning, what kind of progress have you made with Ribbit?
With the $5K grant, we’ve gone out and purchased hardware to retrofit a real plane and make it autonomous. We first bought a small RC plane to test our software in flight. Just last week we purchased a two-seater recreational plane that we will be modifying to be fully autonomous. The next few months will be spent integrating and testing our technology on a real plane while talking to potential early adopters in remote and Northern communities where goods are already shipped in by air.

What are Ribbit’s next/future steps?
Our next big milestone will be actually conducting a fight on a self-flying plane serving a community in Ontario. Once we’ve done that, validated some of the pricing, potential future demand and gotten the OK from regulators, the next big step will be doing a serious first raise and building out our team.

As someone who’s been a part of a winning team, what advice do you have for someone applying to Concept’s upcoming $5K competition?
Crafting a great pitch requires feedback from a lot of different people with different perspectives, which is exactly what Concept provides. The mentors come from all different startup backgrounds so make sure to engage with them and your fellow students who are also entrepreneurial. It’s really just a great community to get involved in and bounce ideas off. It’s not always easy digesting so much feedback – especially when much of it will conflict – but the process is essential to grasping the nuance of knowing what to focus on and how to say it. 

If you’re interested in being the next Ribbit and participating in Concept’s $5K Grant competition for the Winter 2020 term the time is now! Applications are open until February 16, 2020, so be sure to get yours completed and submitted. We can’t wait to hear the ideas pitched!