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SMCS Archangel's Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest in 2024
Special Events

Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest

The Archangel’s Den nurtures, develops, and supports the educational journey and entrepreneurial aspirations of young St. Michael’s College School alumni and current students by providing valuable learning, mentorship, and networking opportunities that reflect the school’s mission and values.

St. Michael’s College School is pleased to announce the fifth annual Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest. Alumni (age 35 and under) from across North America can qualify for this competition! Alumni are invited to submit a pitch or business plan to by Saturday, September 30, 2023.

Archangel’s Den 2024

On February 9, 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) and sponsored by The Downing Street Group, featured six young alumni finalists who showcased innovative pitches while competing for the top prizes.

Watch the recording of the 2024 Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest:

Archangel's Den logo Downing Street logo

1st Place $10,000 – Chasing Antarctica

Connor Emeny ’14, founder of Chasing Antarctica, a documentary that aims to inspire and unite people globally through stories of remarkable human achievements, fostering a sense of global community and shared spirit.

SMCS Archangel's Den 2024 winner, Connor Emeny.

2nd Place $3,500 – Mitts Off

Luke Gazdic ’08, founder of Mitts Off, a podcast that goes beyond traditional sports fandom and aims to strengthen the bond between fans and their heroes, fostering community, belonging, and shared passions and experiences.

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

Third Place $1,500 – PAIM

Aiden Horan ’18 and Michael Kalpouzos (SMCS 2014-17), founder of PAIM, an app that envisions revolutionizing customer experiences through AI and automation, prioritizing improvements in everyday lives over mere technological advancement.

SMCS Archangel's Den - PAIM founders on screen

Contest finalists also included: Drake Kaminsky ’11 with Hive Meadery, Marco Ricci ’19 with Futuretek, and Ryan Stephen ’23 and Henry Wilson with Nootropics.


Six expert mentors help participants throughout the competition in product development, pitch and presentation skills, business operations, and more.

Project Mentor

Michael Bakaic '07, SMCS Archangel's Den Project Mentor
  • Follow up with the teams weekly and drive priority mapping
  • Reminding teams to celebrate successes
  • Assisting teams in analyzing setbacks

Michael Bakaic '07
Co-founder of Iceberg Cyber

As co-founder of Iceberg Cyber, Bakaic is on a mission to simplify cybersecurity for small businesses. Iceberg was formed in 2021 out of a call to action to support the 200k Canadian small businesses that fell victim to cybercrime. Parallel to Iceberg, he is the co-founder and CTO of Fibos. Bakaic's journey with Fibos and Iceberg has yielded six years of experience from within the arena where lessons are as valuable as outcomes. Ever in search of a challenge, he is an outspoken evangelist for the STEM diversity startup, Gibbly, and volunteers for several international Formula Student competitions. There is no secret to startup success and Bakaic aims to help others climb on his journey up the ladder.

For the past eight years, Bakaic has judged the SMCS VEX Robotics competition and this is his second year as the Project Mentor for the Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest. -- Do today what others will not so you can do tomorrow what others can not --

Startup Mentor

Peter Palarchio, SMCS Archangel's Den Mentor
  • Value proposition assessment
  • Product fit
  • Business model assessment
  • Setting goals and managing KPI’s

Peter Palarchio '04
Co-founder of NAV43

Launching his entrepreneurial career at 25 in event marketing, Palarchio soon recognized the untapped potential of the digital landscape. Today, he has overseen digital growth on over 100 projects, ranging from startups to enterprises, with a special focus on SEO growth. Palarchio's holistic approach to marketing has been a driving force behind the remarkable growth of his agency, NAV43, an award-winning digital agency known for its innovative online growth strategies. As a founder of a previous full-service agency, Palarchio honed his skills in brand building and design, serving esteemed global hospitality clients like Marriott, Fairmont, and Hyatt. Passionate about mentorship, Palarchio consistently serves as a guiding light for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Product Mentor

Dante Vertolli, SMCS Archangel's Den Product Mentor
  • Market fit
  • Feasibility / viability / desirability
  • Product development strategies

Dante Vertolli '11
Cadillac Fairview, Innovation Delivery Manager

Vertolli is an Innovation Delivery Manager with Cadillac Fairview’s Innovation Group, where he bridges the gap between product strategy and core business objectives. Prior to joining Cadillac Fairview, Vertolli completed his MBA from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, focusing on strategy and finance. During his studies, he worked with several startups in various industries, including advertising, automotive engineering, biomedical devices, social networking, and space exploration. Vertolli sought to complete an MBA after spending numerous years with Apple, having held various leadership positions in sales and operations.

Vertolli has been an Archangel’s Den mentor since its inception, guiding each of his teams to successful first place finishes.

Rowan Comish '12, SMCS Archangel's Den Technology Mentor

Technology Mentor

  • Assess and develop technical aspects of the product and how the critical features relate to a successful business
  • Assess the need and use of present technology

Rowan Comish '12
Product Analytics, Ground News

Comish joined Ground News to assist with building product and analytics. While at the University of Toronto, he studied physics, math, and computer science and played varsity football there for five years. Comish also brings the experience of going through the U of T hatchery incubator with a team that made it to demo day. He loves startups and everything about them because of the challenges and uncertainty they present.

Business Mentor

Davide Viola, SMCS Archangel's Den Judge
  • Finance - funding, tax, reporting
  • Operations - physical product vs service, supply chain management
  • Commerce - revenue modeling, pricing structures, channel management, marketing, trademarks
  • HR - talent acquisition

Davide Viola '97
CEO at Health First Network & Chairman at

Viola is a Fortune 500 trained expert strategist and executive enabling start-ups to billion-dollar brands to differentiate, compete, grow and scale predictably in any market condition. In his current corporate role, Viola architected a full organizational transformation by re-engineering all aspects of the business, from the brand, product development, services, IT infrastructure and tech stack, supply chain optimization, and even the human resources model. He is skilled in optimizing businesses and implementing an operating system to drive clarity, accountability, momentum, and results.

He has demonstrated his love of entrepreneurship since he was five years old when he sold painted rocks in his neighbourhood to buy candy. In 1999, Viola founded the Schulich York Entrepreneurs Society with his peers. Additionally, he has invested in businesses and real estate over the years. A key failure fueled his insatiable passion for learning and development. In 2020, Viola completed his MBA at a top-ranked global business school, Jack Welch Management Institute. His next entrepreneurial venture is to create a global consulting powerhouse with

Pitch Mentor

Matt Gubasta '14, SMCS Archangel's Den Judge
  • Coach presentation skills
  • Help communicate the product/idea to a diverse audience
  • Identify the key messages & the desired outcome

Matt Gubasta '14
Founder and currently the President of RockMass Technologies

Gubasta is a passionate entrepreneur and leader whose contributions continue to shape the future of mining. Leveraging the need for new solutions in the mining industry, Gubasta and his team utilize innovative robotics and artificial intelligence systems to revolutionize the geotechnical data collection process for engineers enabling real-time decision-making; saving time, money, and lives. He has been named in the Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2021 and is a graduate of the Creative Destruction Lab and HAX accelerator programmes.

Gubasta has been involved with judging the Archangel’s Den for the past two years and has been instrumental in helping many of the past participants.


On the competition night, Archangel's Den finalists will present their business ideas in front of a panel of judges who will determine the winning pitch.

Christina Blazanin

Christina Blazanin, SMCS Archangel's Den Judge

Director, Medical Excellence for Johnson & Johnson Inc.

Blazanin is the Director of Medical Excellence at Johnson and Johnson Inc. In this role, she leads transformative efforts in several cross-functional Medical Affairs areas, including: Medical Affairs Technology systems, Data and Analytics, Healthcare Professional Value Transfer, Medical and Promotional Material Review, Process Excellence and Research Compliance, and Learning and Development. Blazanin earned her degree in chemistry and osteology from the University of Toronto Forensic Science Faculty and completed postgraduate studies in Operations Management. In 2019, she was the keynote speaker at the SMCS Science and Technology Mentorship Breakfast for senior science students, where she shared her passion for science and innovation. This year is Blazanin’s third year participating as a judge.

She lives in Toronto with her husband, Delko, and two sons, Delko Matthew ’23 and Ante ’25.

Will Jee '97

SMCS Archangel's Den judge, Will Jee

Director of Equities at TwinRiver Capital

Over the last 20 years, Jee has had various roles investing in public equities, including 12 years at CPP Investments, where he actively managed well-researched positions in select global equities. Currently, he is the Director of Equities at TwinRiver Capital, an impact investing firm, where he manages the Global Impact Fund, a concentrated portfolio of global impact equities.

As a purpose-driven investor, Jee is also an active angel investor and business advisor to early-stage companies in both mental health and climate.

Ralph Montemurro '91

SMCS Archangel's Den mentor, Ralph Montemurro

Founder of Monte Design

Ralph Montemurro is the founder of Monte Design, a modern home furniture manufacturing company based in Toronto, with products sold across North America.

This is Montemurro's fourth year participating as an Archangel's Den judge.

He comes from a long list of family members who have attended SMCS. He is married to Michelle and has four children, including Jack ’18 and Luke ’23.

Mentors, Rowan Comish '12 and Davide Viola '97 were also judges for the 2024 Archangel's Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest.

Past Events

The Archangel's Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest began as an annual event for SMCS alumni in 2018.

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