LiONʼS LAIR is an annual competition presented by Innovation Factory in collaboration with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Hamilton Economic Development and brings Hamilton’s entrepreneurship and innovation community together. The competition gives 10 companies the opportunity to pitch to a panel of our city’s top business experts – the “Lions” – for a chance to win CASH prizes!

Innovation and the Ambitious City

From its roots in steel and textile production, to its evolution as a leader in life sciences, education and advanced manufacturing, Hamilton is a city of innovators and ambition.  Great ideas are born and grown in our local schools and businesses, but great ideas aren’t guaranteed successes.

This is where Hamilton, a big city with a small-town community, excels.  Alongside Innovation Factory, the innovation and entrepreneurship community in the greater Hamilton area is represented by business support providers, leading industry and professional firms, government and academic institutions.  These organizations lend their support to entrepreneurs, fostering local talent and providing the type of resources and mentorship it takes to help a company grow to its potential.

Business can’t do it alone, and new companies need all the help they can get.  Year-round support takes on many forms, but Innovation Factory’s LiONS LAIR rallies all the forces together to showcase the best in local talent and innovation at Hamilton’s leading pitch competition.

Application and Finalist Selection – Thanks to our Expert Judges

Each year LiONS LAIR grows with more and more applications being submitted.  Finalists are chosen based on their company’s product, its commercial viability and the ability of entrepreneurs to execute.  Business plans are scored by expert judges who select the top scores and narrow the field down to 15 finalists.

Pitch Training – Thanks to our Expert Advisors

It takes a community to build a business, and the Hamilton community is here to lend its support.  LiONS LAIR finalists go through a series of workshops and receiving training intended to strengthen their skills in pitching and developing responses on the go.  Innovation Factory’s expert advisors provide coaching and mentorship to finalists to fine-tune their pitches and prepare them to face the LiONS.

Business Readiness – Thanks to the Pillar of Business LiONS

At the end of July, the finalists will face their first challenge: filming a 10-minute pitch and taking on a series of interviews with the Pillar of Business LiONS. Finalists will each have three interviews that test their legal, business-growth and marketing strategies. Innovation Factory partners Gowling WLG, KPMG and Jan Kelley take on the roles of the Legal LiON, the Financial LiON and the Growth LiON, and contribute their time to help coach and evaluate the finalists in their areas of expertise.  

Pitching at the Gala – Thanks to our Investor LiONS and Sponsors

After pitch and interview day, the Investor LiONS lend their time and decades of investment experience to review the companies’ pitches and scores from the Pillar of Business LiONS to select the top 10.  These finalists will move on to the final stage – pitching live at the LiONS LAIR Awards Gala.

The top 10 finalists will have the exciting opportunity for media exposure through TV interviews thanks to the support from Cogeco and Cable 14.

The 10 finalists will deliver their two-minute pitch, live at the Gala on September 26, 2019, and the Investor LiONS will deliberate and announce the winners of this year’s LiONS LAIR competition.

The winners of LiONS LAIR are awarded cash prizes, thanks to the generous support of the LiONS LAIR sponsors.   These prizes will help elevate their companies to the next level, create jobs, increase revenues and attract investment.

This year’s prizes are thanks to the generous support from Meridian, Jan Kelley, KPMG, Gowling WLG, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, Hamilton Economic Development, Hamilton Business Centre, Barter Pay, McMaster University, McMaster Innovation Park, Mohawk College, and Cogeco.

Many of our past finalists are continuing to grow their businesses post-LiONS LAIR and are making an impact on Hamilton’s economy.  Innovation Factory is proud to see our LiONS LAIR alumni grow their teams, build new partnerships, raise follow-on investment, continue in the pitch circuit, and lend their support to new startups in the entrepreneur community.


If you have any questions regarding LiON’S LAIR, please email [email protected].