Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Athletic training and coaching made smarter from new spin-out company from St. Francis Xavier University

September 25th, 2020
StFX student Mbongeni Ndlovu (centre), recipient of a MITACS Accelerate Entrepreneur award, is pictured with Andrew Kendall, StFX’s Manager of Industry Liaison and Technology Transfer (left) and computer sciences professor Dr. James Hughes.

Mbongeni Ndlovu, a StFX student, has combined his entrepreneurial and business interests with his love of athletics and weight training.

Mr. Ndlovu of Zimbabwe (he likes to be called ‘Bo’) has formed his own company to commercialize a high-tech Artificial Intelligence app for exercise that he has created, and is now supported by a prestigious and significant MITACS Accelerate Entrepreneur award, which funds student entrepreneurs to further develop the research or technology at the core of their business when hosted by an incubator facility.

He is now taking a masters in computer science at StFX, and completed his undergraduate degree from StFX last May with an advanced major in enterprise systems (business). His newly incorporated company, OlyUp Technologies Inc.—OlyUp for short— will advance his AI exercise app to give coaches and athletes better training tools and systems, that ultimately makes their athletic training tailored specifically to their needs and far more convenient and efficient. 

The company will be hosted by the StFX Extension Innovation and Enterprise Centre business incubator. Mr. Ndlovu is supervised and mentored by computer science professor Dr. James Hughes and has received encouragement and advice to commercialize the exercise app from Andrew Kendall, StFX’s Manager of Industry Liaison and Technology Transfer. 

“Bo is amazing,” says Mr. Kendall. “He has an infectious enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit that combines athletic training with cutting-edge artificial intelligence computer science to create this app and OlyUp Technologies. There are real commercial growth opportunities with Bo and OlyUp. I’m hoping Bo can make Nova Scotia his home and be a part of the high-tech business ecosystem that we are building here.”

Dr. Hughes agrees. “Bo has an intuitive grasp of artificial intelligence. His use of AI in this app will give this training tool a huge advantage over the competing technologies out there.”

The idea for the company came out of Mr. Ndlovu’s experience as a strength and conditioning intern at StFX for the past four years and from the Olympic Weightlifting Society he’s run at the university for the past two years. 

“Last year I noted that making individualized training programs for athletes took too much of my time. I also have a lot of experience developing mobile and web-based apps. I have been studying Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the last 2.5 years now. I wanted to use all this experience I have to make a software application that uses AI, which helps assist strength coaches by making training programs for their athletes, based on their sport, position and individual unique characteristics,” he says.

The primary goals of the project are to make it more convenient for coaches to produce training programs and monitor the health and performance of their athletes; to improve the athletic performance of athletes in their respective sports and positions; and to reduce athletic injuries. Each exercise you do in the gym, he explains, is tied to specific muscles in the body. The goal is to track all the muscles affected by each exercise in a training program and have the AI develop a better fatigue and injury recovery management system.

Coaches will be able to save time and work on other duties that are more important and make things easier working with therapists, he says. The company will be working very closely with coaches and therapists alike during the development of the project, so as to identify the best user experience.

“This award will allow me to keep up with the costs, labour and financial, of developing the project. In order for me to receive the award I had to make a project timeline with deliverables and milestones and I’m very grateful for this because its given me a good sense direction of how I’m going to make this project become a reality.”

MITACS funding helps student entrepreneurs to take meaningful advantages of the supports provided by the incubator, with the goal of commercializing the technology, product, or service rapidly. Essentially, the student entrepreneurs get paid to grow their company and get to market faster. 

“I was pretty happy about receiving the award, after hearing the news I stopped everything I was doing at the time and went to the gym to train. I do a lot of Olympic Weightlifting, so I went pretty heavy that day, just to contain my happiness.” He says it is great to get the opportunity to significantly advance the progress of his research. 


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