David Hodgson, CEO and Co-founder of Halifax-based Hollo Medical, has won the 2023 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, or GSEA, beating out almost 1,100 entrepreneurs from all over the world.

Hodgson claimed the US$50,000 (C$66,000) first prize at an event in Cape Town, South Africa, on Friday. His medtech company, which aims to reduce the size of children’s inhalers, has been one of the most successful Atlantic Canadian startups at international competitions lately, making  the finals last year of the Entrepreneurship World Cup.

“While the feeling of a win is exciting and motivating, it is fleeting,” said Hodgson in a LinkedIn post Monday. “More important and empowering perhaps, is the opportunity I’ve had to tell my story, the story of Hollo Medical and the story of those we are doing this for.”

Hodgson and his Co-Founder and COO Sara Fedullo are developing a spacer called the "Bre-Z Chamber"   for use with asthma inhalers that is small enough to fit in a child’s pocket, unlike existing cumbersome products. As well as ensuring better distribution of medication, it means children who need to use inhalers will be spared the embarrassment and bother of having to lug around a huge device.

In previous public statements, Hodgson said the device will be simpler to manufacture than conventional spacers and the regulatory approval process will be simplified by the fact that the technology’s underlying mechanism is already approved and widely used.

Hodgson, a professional engineer who just graduated from the Dalhousie University School of Medicine, was the first Canadian ever to win the GSEA, which has now been held 17 times. The awards are organized by the Entrepreneurship Organization, which operates across 94 local chapters in 39 countries.

Just 59 students made it to the global quarter finals, and 18 advanced to the competition’s semi-finals, which are featured in the four-part Start it Up series on YouTube. From those 18 young entrepreneurs, six moved on to become global finalists.

Said Hodgson: “The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards has lifted me to new heights, and as the 2023 Global Champion, the first Canadian ever to hold this title, I remain humbled by those that brought me here, and especially those I competed alongside.”