Ottawa eye-care startup EcoVision wins Capital Angel Network pitch-in award

The top three pitching companies at Tuesday night's Capital Angel Network mashup event, from left to right: FanSaves CEO Shannon Ferguson, Neurovine founder Ashleigh Kennedy, EcoVision co-founder Tabeena Saleem, CAN board chair Jennifer Francis. Photo by Jason Groulx

A plan to repurpose plastic into affordable pairs of glasses caught the eyes of some angel investors this week, as Ottawa-based EcoVision walked away from a pitchfest with an extra $10,000 towards its mission of making optical care accessible for everyone.

EcoVision was born out of the University of Ottawa’s Enactus program for social entrepreneurship and is in the current cohort of the post-secondary institution’s Startup Garage accelerator. The startup works with fellow Enactus firm Poly to melt down plastic waste into a mould for eyeglass frames, which it claims can retail for prices nearly 80 per cent less than the industry standard.

Co-founder Tabeena Saleem tells Techopia that its appearance at Tuesday night’s Capital Angel Network mashup event was the firm’s first-ever public pitch. CAN’s now-regular pitch-in sees a handful of companies pitch to a set of angel investors, with the panel’s pick taking home a guaranteed $10,000 prize.

Saleem believes the strength of the firm’s pitch is its social impact. She admits there are affordable eyewear options already on the market, but many of those are online-only solutions, and the social mission of EcoVision looks to provide a holistic solution to those in need of vision care.

The startup has established partnerships with Lush Cosmetics, Ottawa’s Riverside Opticalab and mobile eye clinics across the country to source its plastic, provide eye tests for people who need them and fine-tune the eyeglass frames to fit their wearers.

“In reality, a lot of people who really need affordable glasses don't even get their eyes checked or don't know where to access these glasses. So that's why we want to develop all these partnerships,” Saleem says.

“We just want to make sure that they're really able to understand the full scope of what their eye care entails.”

EcoVision looks to address the ever-growing plastic pollution problem with a longer-term solution. Rather than recycling plastic waste into yet another consumable product, Saleem says recycled eyeglass frames provide a lasting fix to two problems.

With the CAN pitch prize under its belt, EcoVision’s total funding has grown to some $40,000. Saleem says the company is currently focusing on developing new moulds for its frames, likely focusing on a child-sized model for kids in need of frames.