Startup Canada Announces Winners of the 2020 Canadian Export Challenge Grand Finale

Ottawa, ON – October 20, 2020 | Today, the startup and scale-up winners for the 2020 Canadian Export Challenge (CXC) final showdown pitch competition were announced. Nyoka Design Labs was named the winner of the startup category, taking home $5,000. The scale-up category winner, Nanotess, won $25,000 and an additional $100,000 in in-kind support.  

Based in Courtenay British Columbia, Nyoka Design Labs is reimagining the traditional plastic glow-stick and working towards empowering the next generation of eco-conscious entrepreneurs. Co-Founded by Yamila Franco, Nyoka uses permaculture design, Indigenous earth-caring knowledge, and biotechnology to power their Light Wand – a bioluminescent, non-toxic, reusable glow-stick.  

“When Paige, my Co-founder, and our team found out we had won the Startup Canada Canadian Export Challenge we were ecstatic. We are doing business differently and this comes with unique challenges – from creating new, sustainable alternatives to implementing a circular economy model. Our team is grateful and fired up to continue innovating, most importantly doing so with the intention to help our most important client – the Earth,” said Yamila Franco, Co-Founder of Nyoka Design Labs. “Our Nyoka Light Wand, the world’s first plastic-free, non-toxic glow stick is only the beginning as we are now preparing for a bigger crowdfunding campaign that will support us as we build a more sustainable future.” 

Calgary-based company Nanotess, Co-Founded by Megan Leslie, is a nanotechnology company commercializing nanomolecule-enabled health care and decontamination products. They currently offer biocompatible and bioselective wound dressings for chronic wounds in both humans and animals.

“Thank you to everyone who pulled together this incredible event. From the Regional Events to the Grand Finale, this experience has been fantastic and I would highly encourage all founders to participate next time! The Canadian Export Challenge has been a great platform to continue to share NanoTess’ story and raise awareness for diabetic foot ulcers,” said Megan Leslie, Co-Founder of Nanotess. “My team and I are honoured to have won the scale-up competition and excited to continue building and growing NanoTess.”

The Canadian Export Challenge is the first fully-digital nationwide pitch competition for exporters. The CXC platform aims to foster a national dialogue to promote Canadian entrepreneurs to own the global innovation and entrepreneurship podium while equipping startups and scale-ups with the knowledge and support they need to leverage Canada as a launchpad for global market entry and growth.

“These businesses are change makers in their industries. Through thoughtful innovation, Yamila Franco and her team have reimagined the traditional glow stick and are working to inspire the next generation of eco-conscious entrepreneurs. Megan Leslie and her team have revolutionized wound healing while also prioritizing their social mandate to ensure accessibility for all,” said Kayla Isabelle, Executive Director at Startup Canada. “The Startup Canada team is so thrilled to see Nyoka Design Labs and Nanotess take home the grand prize of the third annual Canadian Export Challenge Final Showdown.”

In September the challenge completed its regional tour with stops in Atlantic Canada, the Prairies, Ontario, British Columbia and North, and Quebec. Aside from the pitch competitions, the regional events offered attendees panels, workshops and one-on-one meetings with industry experts.

“The 2020 Canadian Export Challenge showcased some of the most tenacious entrepreneurs across the country. Not only did these startups and scale-ups take on the challenge of starting their own business, they did so in spite of an extremely challenging export environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bridget O’Shaughnessy, Canadian Export Challenge team lead at Startup Canada. “It was inspiring to see so many rise to the challenge and we look forward to championing the success of all of the participants including winners Yamila Franco and Megan Leslie.”

Presented in partnership with UPS, the Trade Commissioner Service and Export Development Canada, along with Mastercard, Scotiabank, CIPO, ISED and Mitacs Canada and powered by Google Canada, the Canadian Export Challenge showcased and supported more than 3400 borderless businesses to go global.

For more information, and to schedule interviews, please contact:

Lauren Hicks

Media Relations, Startup Canada

(905) 531-1670


About Startup Canada

Startup Canada is Canada’s entrepreneurship organization. Startup Canada promotes and supports the success and growth of Canada’s 3.5 million entrepreneurs, with a mandate to foster economic growth, competitiveness, and prosperity through entrepreneurship. Since launching, Startup Canada’s programming has directly supported more than 200,000 entrepreneurs and 50 grassroots Startup Community organizations. Working with over 750 ecosystem partners, including accelerators, incubators, research parks, educational institutions, economic development agencies, associations, and government programs, Startup Canada serves entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, industries, and stages of development, with a network reflective of Canada’s diverse population. Learn more at