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Entrepreneurial Brilliance Unleashed: Recapping the 2024 Archangel’s Den

A celebration of St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) alumni entrepreneurial spirit took over the Centre for the Arts this month.

On February 9, after months of preparation and much more planning and dreaming, alumni hit the theatre stage for the fifth edition of the Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest. The event, presented by the St. Michael’s College School Alumni Association (SMCSAA), featured a diverse cohort of young alumni finalists. Participants spanning six graduation years showcased innovative pitches and competed for cash prizes sponsored by Downing Group Associates Inc.

This year’s Archangel’s Den finalists included Connor Emeny ’14, Drake Kaminsky ’11, Luke Gazdic ’08 and Darren Winker, Ryan Stephen ’23 and Henry Wilson, Marco Ricci ’19, Aiden Horan ’18 and Michael Kalpouzos (SMCS 2014-17) who delivered outstanding business plans and pitches. It also marked the return to an in-person competition format, the first since the pandemic pushed the event online.

SMCS Archangel's Den 2024 panel of judges

“The contestants were full of strength and ready to charge. Each carried a spark, raw and eager to ignite,” says Michael Bakaic ’07, the Archangel’s Den host and project mentor. “They were fighters, each with their own arena, battling not just for victory but for the chance to make something real, something lasting. Their energy was infectious, their dedication admirable.”

Leading up to the February 9 premiere, the teams met with mentors from the SMCS community to fine-tune their presentations. These included Michael Bakaic ’07 (project mentor), Dante Vertolli ’11 (product mentor), Peter Palarchio ’04 (startup mentor), Rowan Comish ’12 (technology mentor), Davide Viola ’97 (business mentor), and Matt Gubasta ’14 (pitch mentor). Each mentor brought a diverse skill set and a wealth of knowledge, providing an exceptional resource for the contestants.

“I joined the Archangel’s Den during the pandemic. I enjoyed the energy and face-to-face interaction of being in person,” says SMCS parent Christina Blazanin, Director of Medical Excellence at Johnson and Johnson and a returning judge. “The contestants this year were prepared, engaging, and came with passion towards their pitch, which resonated with the judges and was evident in their pitches.”

This year, joining Blazanin at the judge’s table were alumni Rowan Comish ’12, Product Analytics at Ground News, Davide Viola’97, CEO at Health First Network and Chairman at, Ralph Montemurro ’91, founder of Monte Design, and William Jee ’97, Director of Equities at TwinRiver Capital.

After an entertaining evening of diverse and well-thought-out pitches, followed by respective Q&A sessions, the judges deliberated and announced the 2024 winners.

In first place, Connor Emeny received $10,000, planning to tour his film globally and leverage networking for success. Luke Gazdic secured second place, winning $3,500; third place went to Aiden Horan and Michael Kalpouzos with a $1,500 prize.

FIRST PLACE: CONNOR EMENY – Chasing Antarctica: Uniting Through Inspirational Storytelling

SMCS Archangel's Den 2024 winner, Connor Emeny.

“The Archangels Den was an amazing experience. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, so winning the grand prize means so much to me. To have the support and encouragement from the mentors, judges, and fellow alumni gave me the boost I needed heading into Antarctica. I hope my story is a living testament of what it means to ‘Dare to Dream,’” says Emeny.

Chasing Antarctica, driven by a visionary creator, captures the essence of human resilience and shared experiences. This documentary venture aims to inspire and unite people globally through stories of remarkable human achievements, fostering a sense of global community and shared spirit.

SECOND PLACE: LUKE GAZDIC – Mitts Off: Creating Connections Through Sports

SMCS Archangel's Den 2024 second place winner, Luke Gazdic

“I am honoured and thrilled to be the second-place finisher for Archangel’s Den. It was such a great experience and I’m glad I went through with it! I want to thank my mentors for helping me with my presentation and the judges for selecting Mitts Off with the second-place prize,” says Gazdic.

Mitts Off podcast goes beyond traditional sports fandom, aiming to strengthen the bond between fans and their heroes, fostering community, belonging, and shared passions and experiences.


SMCS Archangel's Den 2024 third place winners, Aiden Horan and Michael Kalpouzos

“Our experience working with the St. Michael’s Archangel’s Den was nothing short of amazing,” says Horan. “This competition allowed us to really focus on our business and what it really means to start a company.”

Kalpouzos adds, “From changing our idea to changing beachhead markets, our mentors helped guide us to succeed in this competition. We just wanted to say thank you to everyone who was involved and for seeing our vision.”

PAIM envisions revolutionizing customer experiences through AI and automation, prioritizing improvements in everyday lives over mere technological advancement. PAIM’s innovations are rooted in ethical practices and societal benefits.

Watch the 2024 Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest:

For those interested in the Archangel’s Den, outreach for the next edition will commence in the fall of 2025. The competition’s impact extends beyond monetary prizes, fostering a supportive community and providing a platform for innovative ideas.

Related links:

Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest

SMCS Alumni

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