Lyndon Lisitza saw a gap in the marketplace when his father wanted to sell the family farm in 2008. There was no easy way to connect rural landowners with potential buyers and renters.
That’s when he hatched the idea for Renterra Farmland Auctions.
Renterra, a farmland rental website set to launch Nov. 14, allows farmers to auction their land to potential renters and allows renters to search for land that fits their needs.
“We’re trying to put a mechanism in place where both farmers and farmland renters can find a fair-market value for the land,” said Lisitza, a graduate of the Edwards School of Business.
Lisitza got the chance to turn his idea into a reality after winning this year’s University of Saskatchewan Tech Venture Challenge on Oct. 11.
The Tech Venture Challenge is a business competition for young entrepreneurs with an idea for a startup company.
Renterra Auctions won $50,000 cash, a year of free office space at Innovation Place and $6,000 in services from Deloitte, a business consulting firm.
“The concept I’ve developed is completely new. There are no other firms doing what I’m doing,” Lisitza said by phone from Regina after his victory.
“You first have to have that great idea and the passion to take that great idea forward and put it to work.”
The other finalists in the competition were Triumf rewards, a company that enables retailers to send promotions to customers’ smartphones, and Indie Ink Publishing, a book publishing company that offers its product on both digital and traditional platforms.
“What we’re trying to do is engage people in entrepreneurism and to engage people in thinking about their research and their ideas in a different way,” Lorna Shaw-Lennox, a representative from the U of S Industry Liaison Office, said.
The ILO put on the challenge, which was open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and sent each of the 10 finalists through months of workshops designed to help them develop a solid business plan. Now, the ILO will continue to work with each of the finalists to bring the companies into the market and connect them with investors. The top three startups were invited to pitch their businesses to the Saskatchewan Capital Network.
Shaw-Lennox said the Tech Venture Challenge’s main goal is to spur the province’s entrepreneurial sector.
“There has been a lack of support for startup companies,” she said. “In Saskatchewan we don’t have incubators or accelerators. We don’t have gap funding.”
Many young entrepreneurs leave the province to places offering better opportunities. The ILO, along with the W. Brett Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence, are trying to change that trend.
The centre offers courses in entrepreneurship, hosts businesses competitions and works closely with the ILO to help students and alumni turn their business plans into a reality.
“We get out there to find people who have ideas and want to start growing their business and we try to help them out by connecting them to the right people,” Stephanie Yong, the centre’s director, said.
Yong is optimistic about the future of startups in Saskatchewan.
“I think that because our economy is in such a large growth right now that we’re starting to see entrepreneurship really adding to that… and I think that it’s just going to keep growing,” she said.
Renterra Farmland Auctions launches Nov. 14 at the Brett Wilson Pitch Party at Prairieland Park.
Photo: Shan Lu