Wolff New Venture Competition Finalists Announced

The goal of the Summer Fellowship program is to help aspiring entrepreneurs move out of the conceptual stage of venture development, and into the marketplace. The program focuses on accepting high-impact ventures with the potential to solve critical human and environmental issues.

 

The Summer Fellowship Finale was held on Thursday, August 2nd. The 10 teams were able to showcase their ventures in front of a panel of judges, and ultimately five teams were selected as Wolff Finalists. The Wolff New Venture Competition features 10-minute presentations by the top five entrepreneurial teams from the CCEI Summer Fellowship program, chosen on a basis of venture viability and value added to the market. A panel of venture experts decide which team deserves the Wolff Prize and the $15,000 accompanying it. This year, the Wolff family has generously increased the prize amount to $20,000.

 

These are the five teams selected as Wolff New Venture Competition Finalists:

 

Encapsulate

Armin Tahmasbi Rad, UConn School of Engineering Ph.D. candidate, and Leila Daneshmandi, UConn School of Engineering Ph.D. candidate, are engineering a diagnosis device to determine personalized treatment for cancer.

 

Mycozap

Faculty Cindy Tian and undergraduate student Elizabeth Johnson from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources are creating a plant-derived antimicrobial treatment for illness in cattle caused by microplasma bovis.

 

QRfertile

The UConn School of Engineering’s Assistant Professor Savas Tasoglu, Ph.D. candidate Reza Amin, and Ph.D. student Stephanie Knowlton, are developing an in-home device with a smartphone-based automated analyzer to measure male fertility.

 

SAVKAR.AI

The UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Faculty Amit Savkar, graduate student David Nichols, and industry partner William Moschella are creating a predictive analytics platform for student retention in STEM fields.

 

WellTech

The UConn School of Medicine’s Faculty Robert Aseltine, and postdoctoral fellows Chonglian Luo and Riddhi Doshi, along with the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduate student Wenjie Wang and Undergraduate Student Madeleine Aseltine, and in collaboration with industry mentor Cal Colins, are building a program to assist healthcare providers in collecting patient information to improve quality measurement, increase patient engagement, simplify reporting, and maximize reimbursement.

 

Over the eight weeks of the program, these teams demonstrated extreme growth and increased understanding of entrepreneurship. Here is what Summer Fellowship participants feel they took away from the program.

“The summer fellowship experience introduced me to systematic ways of thinking about business, and gave me tools for continuing to think about business in the future like the Business Model Canvas, and taking a scientific approach to testing assumptions that I have about my business,” states David Nichols of SAVKAR.AI.

“You get to work with the other teams constantly. You’re getting their feedback, you’re learning from what they’re going through, and it gives you a great opportunity to network and grow your product without ever leaving the classroom,” says Madeleine Aseltine of WellTech.

“It is much more serious than the other programs that you may find, therefore you can dig into the potential that you may have and come up with different scenarios in terms of business models,” states Armin Tahmasbi Rad of Encapsulate.

“We had the opportunity to meet CEOs of companies in Connecticut, and we had the opportunity to go and see other companies in Connecticut,” says Reza Armin of QRfertile.

“It’s okay not to know all the answers. The people in this program will help you find the people who have the right answers so you can delegate out what you’re really good at and other things that people can do that they’re really good at,” says Elizabeth Johnson of MycoZap.

The  2018 Wolff New Venture Competition will take place on October 9th in Hartford. For more information and to read the UConn School of Business’s highlight article about the Summer Fellowship program, click here.


Summer Fellowship Highlight Series: WickAway

UConn School of Engineering graduate Trevor Svec and undergraduate student Philip Gitman are designing self-extinguishing candle accessories, a venture they call WickAway.

Not only does their product promote safety, but it can be used with any candle and also is aesthetically pleasing, with stylish designs that will complement any home interior.

Entrepreneurial lead Svec states that the team decided to join Summer Fellowship “to earn valuable business experience and learn how to grow WickAway into a company.”

Svec feels that the most important lesson he has learned in Summer Fellowship thus far is how to build a business model canvas. By the end of summer fellowship he hopes to learn how to make a reasonable timeline for WickAway in the next few years.


Summer Fellowship Highlight Series: QRFertile

The UConn School of Engineering’s Assistant Professor Savas Tasoglu, Ph.D. candidate Reza Amin, and Ph.D. student Stephanie Knowlton, are developing an in-home device with a smartphone-based automated analyzer to measure male fertility.

Amin states that QRfertile intends that “users can eventually pick up our product from their local pharmacy, and use it in the comfort of their home.”

The team feels that this product is especially important because 50% of fertility issues in couples are a result of male infertility, and usually simple lifestyle changes can be implemented to improve fertility outcomes once the issue is identified.

When asked what inspired him to join Summer Fellowship, Amin replied, “As an engineer I needed an environment to improve my entrepreneurship skills, and Summer Fellowship is a great opportunity for that purpose.”

For Amin, this experience has been beneficial in that it taught him how to craft effective strategic plans and “make them happen by commitment”.

In the final weeks of Summer Fellowship, Amin hopes he can solidify his understanding of how to “transfer an idea into a product” by putting into practice the financing, marketing, and selling skills he is obtaining from the program.

 

 


Summer Fellowship Highlight Series: MycoZap

Faculty Cindy Tian and undergraduate student Elizabeth Johnson from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources are creating a plant-derived antimicrobial treatment for illness in cattle caused by microplasma bovis.

Their product, called MycoZap, primarily intends to prevent diseases like pneumonia and mastitis. The MycoZap team participated in Accelerate UConn, and decided to join Summer Fellowship because they wanted “to learn more and take the information a step further,” in the words of Johnson.

Thus far in Summer Fellowship, Johnson states the team has learned “How to effectively communicate information about the project to potential buyers,” and “how everything is connected to each other from start to end!”

By the end of Summer Fellowship, the team hopes to gain “ the information that is necessary to form, run, grow a successful business.”


Summer Fellowship Highlight Series: Encapsulate

Armin Tahmasbi Rad, UConn School of Engineering Ph.D. candidate, and Leila Daneshmandi, UConn School of Medicine Ph.D. candidate, are engineering a diagnosis device to determine personalized treatment for cancer. The name of their venture is Encapsulate.

“Our automated tumor-on-chip system grows patients cancer cells outside the body and tests the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs against them to advocate for the best course of treatment,” says Entrepreneurial Lead Tahmasbi Rad.

When asked why the team decided to join Summer Fellowship, Tahmasbi Rad replied, “Our team has participated in CCEI’s other programs and found it so informative and useful. Therefore, we thought that focusing on our venture from a new perspective and having a better understanding about our ideal business model with CCEI mentors would be a great opportunity for us.”

The Encapsulate team feels that thus far in Summer Fellowship they have mastered defining their initial business plan, marketing strategies and step by step company expansion.

By the end of this program, Tahmasbi Rad hopes, “we can have a clear vision over our marketing plan, our business model, and most importantly have the insight of our go-to-market strategies.”


Summer Fellowship Team Highlight: WellTech

The UConn School of Medicine’s Faculty Robert Aseltine, and postdoctoral fellows Chonglian Luo and Riddhi Doshi, along with the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduate student Wenjie Wang and Undergraduate Student Madeleine Aseltine, and in collaboration with industry mentor Cal Colins, are building a program to assist healthcare providers in collecting patient information to improve quality measurement, increase patient engagement, simplify reporting, and maximize reimbursement.

This program, called WellTech, is a patient health screening platform that will screen patients for a variety of different diseases and risk factors to improve patient care and maximize reimbursements for the providers.

The WellTech team decided to join the Summer Fellowship after completing the Accelerate Uconn program in the spring of 2018, wanting to continue the work they had started and learn more about how to expand their business model.  

Entrepreneurial Lead Madeleine Aseltine feels that the team has already learned so much from their participation in Summer Fellowship. “So far, the most important thing we’ve learned is to know and understand how our customers decide to buy a product like ours. We’re continually focusing on customer discovery so that we can deliver a product they want.”

When asked what the team hopes to learn by the end of Summer Fellowship, Aseltine responded, “We hope to learn how to successfully grow our startup into a business, and how to take our product out of the classroom and into the market!”

 


Summer Fellowship Highlight Series: SAVKAR.AI

Next up in our Summer Fellowship team highlight series is SAVKAR.AI.

 

The UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Faculty Amit Savkar, graduate student David Nichols, and industry partner William Moschella are creating a predictive analytics platform for student retention in STEM fields, called SAVKAR.AI.

In the words of entrepreneurial lead David Nichols, “We have developed assessment, instruction, and predictive analytics tools which have greatly increased our students’ success in mathematics courses. Now we are building an online software platform so that we can bring that same success to mathematics programs in colleges and universities around the country.”

 

When asked why SAVKAR.AI decided to participate in the Summer Fellowship program, Nichols responded that, “increasingly, colleges and universities rely on educational technologies and the businesses that deliver those technologies. In order to elevate my educational software projects from my classrooms to the broader education tech ecosystem, I need to learn about business and entrepreneurship. The Summer Fellowship is my first step down that road. “

 

SAVKAR.AI entered Summer Fellowship with the intent to learn about business, and that goal has been achieved. Nichols states that the most important lesson he has learned thus far in the project is to always validate assumptions. By the end of the program, he hopes to learn how to think like an entrepreneur and to cultivate the skills that are required for to continue learning and gathering information about this and other business ventures.

 


Summer Fellowship Highlight Series: YouCOMM

UConn School of Engineering graduates Daniel Yasoshima and Tom Cotton and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences student Jeren Koh have developed a multi-lingual tablet application that provides patients with an easier way to communicate with caregivers, called YouCOMM.

This app has hands-free and voice recognition capabilities that allow patients with hindered movement to also be able to use the device. The goal is to provide specification and prioritization to a caregiver, and thus enhance the quality of care in various healthcare facilities.

Yasoshima states, “The opportunity of expanding our education in business, strategy, marketing, customer acquisition, financing, and using the resources that this Summer Fellowship is providing is so valuable; truly an exceptional way of having our venture move forward. Some of the concepts we are learning is so useful –  not just for YouCOMM, but for life.”

Thus far in the Summer Fellowship program, YouCOMM feels they have learned “The importance of providing value. It’s so critical for us to understand the solution we are offering makes sense and that it is better than what is currently on the market. In addition, there are so many factors that can make or break a venture, and understanding the jobs, pains, gains of each stakeholder is a major contributor of what will drive our success.”

By the end of Summer Fellowship, the YouCOMM team hopes to learn “ the answer of the first question that was posed to us in our first class: do you have a viable business? I would not be in this Summer Fellowship if I did not believe in this venture. It takes hard work, nonstop preparation, and an open mind to continuously move a venture forward and to be able to answer “yes, I do have a viable business”.


Summer Fellowship Highlight Series: Dyadic Innovations

 

The next team to be featured in our highlight series is Dyadic Innovations, composed of Ruth Lucas, UConn School of Nursing faculty, Jimi Francis, University of Texas at Tyler faculty, and Patrick Hocking, UConn School of Engineering undergraduate student. This venture is in the process of designing a breastfeeding diagnostic device that would provide an objective measurement of an infant’s breastfeeding efforts to mothers and clinicians.

 

The team hopes their product will help intensive care professionals to maintain weight gain and improve breastfeeding outcomes of high risk cases.

 

Dyadic Innovations’ entrepreneurial lead Patrick Hocking states the team decided to join the summer fellowship to gain a better foundational understanding of their market, as well as receive guidance in navigating their product to market.

 

“The most important thing we’ve learned so far is clarifying our target market. Identifying the NICU as an early adopter was essential in creating our market map,” says Hocking.

 

When discussing goals going forward, Hocking states that by the end of Summer Fellowship, Dyadic Innovations hopes to better define how their product will fit into the marketplace.

 


Summer Fellowship Series Highlight: Spore

The next Summer Fellowship team highlight is Spore.

 

Spore is led by College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources graduate Cameron Collins and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduate James Polo-Lossius.

 

Spore is dedicated to providing local options for fresh or processed gourmet and medicinal mushroom products. They aim to broaden the scope of mushroom varieties available locally as well as offer products that allow those who are not inclined towards mushrooms to enjoy their health benefits.

 

Collins and Polo-Lossius state that they were motivated to join Summer Fellowship because ”the two of us have little business experience and we knew that in order to get our venture off the ground we needed a lot of help with all of the topics that are covered in the Summer Fellowship program. This opportunity offers us priceless experience, as well as resources, that will enable us to make effective and meaningful business decisions.”

 

Over the past weeks of Summer Fellowship, the Spore team feels they’ve learned “how important it is to have a clear definition of not only who your future customers are, but what their personal struggles and victories are in day to day life. Putting ourselves in the shoes of our potential customers has been incredibly helpful for clarifying our path to market and prioritizing goals.”

 

Going forward, Collins and Polo-Lossius hope to “ learn about our individual strengths and weaknesses when it comes to starting a business. That way we can continue to hone our skills where it is needed as well as make the most of our existing strengths.”

 

We look forward to seeing how their venture develops and grows.