Summer Fellowship Feature: Optimize

Team Optimize has six members: Dr. Linda Pescatello, distinguished professor in the Department of Kinesiology at UConn, Dr. Margaux Guidry, Medical Science Liaison at Servier, Dr. Yin Wu, post-doc fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at UConn, Greg Panza, PhD candidate in the Department of Kinesiology at UConn and Exercise Physiologist at Hartford Hospital, Rachel Berkowsky, Masters student in the Department of Kinesiology at UConn and Harrison Korzenowski, undergraduate student at Springfield College.


They are creating, “ A mobile app that will enable healthcare and exercise professionals to design an individualized evidence-based exercise prescription in 5 minutes within office hours for adults with multiple cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.” – Yin Wu.


The core of the mobile app is a clinical decision support system that Dr. Pescatello has been teaching, testing and refining in her Online Exercise Prescription Certificate Course at UConn in the past 5 year among over 50 healthcare and exercise professionals.


They created this product for health care and exercise professionals who do not have the skill set or time to design individualized evidence-based exercise prescription to patients with multiple CVD risk factors. We want to help them perform this task within 5 minutes, even without any background or training.


By the end of Summer Fellowship Optimize wants to develop the minimum viable product (MVP) and  get ready to perform a beta testing study to validate the MVP.





Summer Fellowship Feature: Geyser Remediation

Geyser Remediation was legally formed in January 2019, yet the idea began in the Fall Semester of 2017 as part of a chemical engineering senior design project. We realized that it was something that was needed to help solve the PFAS problem, which is of ever more concern. We want to prevent people from getting sick due to PFAS-related illnesses. We think we have a solution and want to help. 


The co-founders of Geyser Remediation are Elizabeth Perry and Niko Franceschi-Hofmann, which started out as a senior design project between Niko and 3 other chemical engineers. Currently they also have an engineer, Brendan MacIntyre working with their team. Elizabeth is a Business Management Senior at UConn. Niko is a recent graduate of a dual degree in Chemical Engineering and Business Management and Brendan is a recent graduate in chemical engineering. 

“We are  trying to create systems for water utilities that will integrate with their existing systems as pain-free as possible to break down Per-and Poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) to below the recommended or desired limit in drinking water.” -Niko Franceschi-Hofmann

PFAS are found essentially everywhere due to their wide range of uses, environmental persistence, and ability to travel through air and water. PFAS are manufactured compounds commonly found in industries or products requiring non-stick, or stain resistant properties and applications. The plethora of products includes food processing equipment, food packaging, fire-fighting foams, polishes and waxes, paper plates, stain resistant fabrics/carpets, and non-stick pans. PFASs enters the water supply through these sources via a chain of events: PFASs are used in manufacturing processes, then manufacturing run-off of PFASs gets into the water supply, or the manufactured products end up in a landfill and the PFASs leach out into groundwater. This contaminated water then spreads via natural water cycle pathways, spreading the PFAS with it. Eventually, that water makes its way into drinking water treatment facilities, which are not equipped to remove PFASs, or even to detect their presence. These molecules then bio-accumulate in human bodies, because our bodies cannot break them down, or flush them out easily. They tend to build up in the body faster than they are removed, which can exacerbate the health effects perpetrated by PFASs such as various cancers, low birth weights, and immune system interference, among a host of other issues.


By the end of the Summer Fellowship, we hope to have proof-of-concept and completed our second prototype. We also hope to secure additional funding and be a serious contender in the running for an EPA SBIR Grant. 

Summer Fellowship Feature: Phoenix Tailings

Phoenix Tailings first started working together on a ventrue in September of 2018, but was officially founded in January of 2019 by four members: Mike Martin, Nick Myers, Thomas Villalon and Michelle Chao.

Their company provides both a service as well as products. The service is industrial waste (Bauxite Residue AKA Red Mud) removal and complete disposal. The products are raw materials derived from all of the individual components of the separated industrial waste, like iron and rare earth elements.

Phoenix Tailings started developing their waste separating process because they saw that the Bauxite Residue waste represented a huge opportunity that could grant access to the useful and valuable materials locked inside of it. It just so happens that eliminating Bauxite Residue has the added bonus of being great for the environment. They then realized that there can be a new type of environmentalism which seeks solutions that are not only best for the environment, but are also best for the companies’ bottom line. “We want to change the world for the better by solving problems in ways everyone can be excited about”. – Michael Martin

By the end of the summer they hope to be finished with their proof of concept and have a well developed understanding of their customers’ needs on the product side of their business in order to proceed to the next stage of their company’s development.


Summer Fellowship Feature: Land Maverick


Land Maverick started in May of 2017, used as a senior design project for Emily Yale’s undergraduate work, and then took a pause in 2018.


Land Maverick has four engineers and one business student behind it right now. Everyone brings a different skill set and background to the table, wrapped up in a lot of passion to see a product through from inception to market. 


We build autonomous measuring robots, which collect soil data, to help golf courses and farms have an easier time managing their property. 


By the end of Summer Fellowship, we hope to have our 3rd prototype completed and have ironed out a significant number of assumptions in our business plan. “I am extremely happy to have the special opportunity to work on this project full time with mentorship and support from UCONN”. -Emily Yale

Summer Fellowship Feature Series : Nami Therapeutics

To start off our Summer Fellowship 2019 Highlight Series, Nami Therapeutics Corporation is our first highlight participating in our extensive eight week summer program.


Nami Therapeutics Corp (’Nami’) is a startup company based in Storrs, CT and currently in the Technology Incubation Program at the University of Connecticut.


Nami was founded in February of 2018 by Dr. Xiuling Lu, CEO, Dr. Michael Jay, Chief Scientist, Dr. David Worthen, Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Andrew Salner, Clinical Advisor, Ruobing Xia, Chief Commercial Officer, and Summer Fellowships Derek Hargrove, Entrepreneurial Lead and Sterling Glass.


Nami is developing specifically designed nanoparticles for the targeted delivery of therapeutic agents, including radio-therapeutics, to tumors. Nami (which mean ‘nano’ in Mandarin) is using technologies licensed from the University of Connecticut and the University of North Carolina.


In the words of Derek Hargrove, “Our experienced team is focused on tumor-specific nanoparticle platforms to largely improve delivery efficiency, treatment efficiency and product safety. One novel product is radiotherapeutic nanoparticles containing the beta particle-emitting isotope holmium-166 (Ho-166) for the treatment of peritoneal metastasis through intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration. The Ho-166 nanoparticles are produced by a neutron activation process that minimizes the handling of these highly radioactive nanoparticles. We have demonstrated the predominant accumulation of Ho-166 nanoparticles in tumors after i.p. administration to ovarian tumor-bearing mice, resulting in a reduction in tumor burden and prolonged survival. Despite advances in treatment strategies, peritoneal metastasis remains the primary cause of morbidity and mortality in ovarian cancer. With 239,000 women diagnosed worldwide each year, ovarian cancer is the 7th most common cancer in women and has a five-year relative survival rate only 28%. It accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Our immediate goal is to advance the Ho-166 product toward clinical trials by demonstrating its safety and efficacy in preclinical animal models.


By the conclusion of Summer Fellowship, Nami Therapeutics is looking to strengthen their business plan and develop a robust strategy for communicating their value to investors and industry collaborators so they are able to fund preclinical toxicity studies, the investigational device exemption (IDE) application for clinical trials, and GMP manufacturing of their product. They would also like to gain legal counsel for patent licensing and IDE filing by the end of the summer, while beginning to develop their clinical study design. 

Why I spent my summer with Verge

Why the Verge Consulting Program?

Similar to many MBA students, I had a special interest in joining a consulting firm in the summer. I thought the chance and responsibility to work with external clients would serve as an excellent learning opportunity for my future career aspirations. I enjoy seeing how business work and wanted to utilize my analytical skills and business knowledge to solve complex business problems and generate significant impact on the client’s firms. In addition, I was keen to implement, in the real business environment, the most relevant business concepts I had learned in-class during the first year of my MBA. My expectations of the Verge Program were exceeded.  I was exposed to firms at different life cycle stages and from across industries provided the me and the team multiple challenges that not only expanded hands-on learning, but also improved our skillset.

Projects and Team Dynamics

Our team worked on multiple projects with clients ranging from early stage startups trying to find the most appropriate business model to established companies expanding their business. Their industries include healthcare, medical devices, consumer products, and construction. Accompanied by SBDC Advisors, the first step of a project included meeting with the client to gain better understanding of their objectives and challenges. Then we would come up with a scope of work describing what deliverables we would later provide to the client. Next, the team would extensively discuss potential approaches to overcome business problems and drive business growth (as we had done many times in classroom during the first year of the MBA program). During the project execution phase, we relied on multiple business research database to gather and analyze information. The deliverable included a final presentation to the client, which was my favorite part of this experience. Many times, the relationship with the client transcends the scope of work itself. Noticing the entrepreneur’s passion for the business is contagious and inspiring.  Knowing that we actually have the chance to contribute to their success is priceless.

Skillset development

Overall, I was mostly engaged in activities involving creating strategies for customer acquisition and customer conversion, which requires extensive market research and analysis. In addition, I learned startup valuation and finance modeling, both of which were new to me. However, the most valuable skill I learned as a Verge Consultant was to validate business hypotheses using a data-driven approach. The resources available at Verge Consulting paired with the solid business foundation gained through the first year of the MBA Program allowed me and the team to effectively make insight-driven recommendations to drive business decisions.

This post was written by:

Murillo Silva
MBA, Class of 2019

UConn School of Business

InsurTech Week

2018 InsurTech Fellows; Tae Park, Brittany Dias, Julianna Wesley, Katelin Dorff

What an exciting week for InsurTech! Starting Tuesday, November 27thand continuing into Wednesday, November 28th, the Hartford InsurTech Hub hosted their Selection Days. Across these two days, 22 InsurTech startups were invited to showcase their companies to mentors, partners and students. At the end of Selection Days, the goal was to select 10 companies to join Startupbootcamp’s Accelerator Program.

Each day began with a round of introductions. Dawn LeBlanc, Managing Director at the Hartford InsurTech Hub, briefed attendees on the expectations for each day and the process they took to reach 22 invitees out of thousands of possibilities. Sabine Vanderlinden, CEO of Startupbootcamp, presented on topics surrounding the growing industry of InsurTech and its added value to the traditional insurance industry. Mayor of Hartford, Luke Bronin, was also in attendance to discuss the future of InsurTech in Hartford and the impact it will continue to make on the nations insurance capital. The day continued on with pitches from the 22 startups. Each startup was challenged to pitch their business models within 60 to 90 seconds. Attendees were introduced to InsurTech startups that had a focus on just about everything including artificial intelligence, blockchain, customer experience and claims processes. Following the pitches, each startup had the opportunity to receive feedback and discuss pathways to success with partners, mentors, and investors across the insurance, finance, and technology industries.


Insurance Market Summit

After the Selection Days came the Insurance Market Summit, held on Thursday, November 29that the Marriott Downtown Hartford. This day was filled with high energy and excitement from insurers, investors and partners from the surrounding area in Hartford, CT. Keynote speaker, Tom Wamberg, CEO of Wamberg Genomic Advisors, started the morning with a fascinating presentation on genomics and some of the innovative ways it is being used to identify genetically-prone diseases and cure terminal illnesses. This was especially of interest to the insurance companies in the room because a simple genetic screening can be used to drive premium costs and improve underwriting in health insurance. The rest of the day consisted of presentations and panel discussions focusing on the direction of the insurance industry and the incorporation of innovative technologies.

As the Summit came to a close, CEO of Startupbootcamp, Sabine Vanderlinden, shared exciting news. 10 new InsurTech startups were selected to join Startupbootcamp’s Accelerator Program starting in February.  After the past two days of Selection Days, this brought enthusiasm to the insurance partners and investors in the audience. This was especially exciting for the University of Connecticut and University of Hartford students that are participating in CCEI’s InsurTech Fellows Program. In the spring, these Fellows will be working with these InsurTech startups throughout their involvement in the accelerator, inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.

UConn MBA Case Competition

The week ended with the UConn MBA Case Competition held at Upward Hartford. Every year, first-year UConn MBA students work in teams to analyze complex case studies surrounding emerging business challenges and present their solutions to a panel of judges. This years MBA Case Competition had a focus on InsurTech. Specifically, MBA students were asked to examine the anonymous profiles of 7 InsurTech startups and create a rating system that examines which company had the most effective business model, strategies and value propositions. Many of these anonymous companies were actually inspired by the same InsurTech startups that applied to the Startupbootcamp’s Accelerator Program in 2019. Only a day after the announcement of the 10 selected startups, it was interesting to see how the MBA students selected these startups in comparison to the ones that were selected one day prior. The day concluded with a winning team and runner up team, although all participating teams gave outstanding and informative presentations.

The 10 InsurTech Startups participating in the 2019 cohort of the Hartford InsurTech Hub accelerator were announced at the Insurance Market Summit.



InsureTech Connect 2018

Welcome to Las Vegas! This year’s InsureTech Connect Conference was one for the books. Thousands of professionals traveled from across the country and world to learn and connect with others surrounding the fascinating industry of InsurTech. There were a variety of panels, discussions, speakers, and presentations all with a similar purpose in mind-to open up the perspectives of all the insurers, startups and professionals in attendance.

The event opened with the plenary sessions, hosted by the CEO and co-founder of InsureTech Connect, Jay Weintraub. Here we heard from some very notable industry leaders who shared the importance of innovation in a traditional industry such as insurance. Attendees were able to gain a deeper understanding of what the future holds for InsurTech. We also heard from the CEO of Credit Karma, Ken Lin, who launched a new product right on stage! Soon consumers will have a way to go on the Credit Karma app and view their insurance score and compare prices on auto insurance based on their credit. The plenary sessions ended with a panel discussion called “Money Talks: Insurance. Innovation.” CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group, Pina Albo and CEO of Argo Group, Mark Watson III discussed ways they are integrating innovation within their owns companies and provided guidance on how other businesses can follow suit. Overall, this event was a great way to kick-off InsureTech Connect 2018 and made for a promising conference.

Following the plenary sessions was a full day of panels, speakers and presentations. Here are some of the sessions CCEI attended:

Panel Discussion: “Financial Inclusion: Innovation Meets Social Responsibility”

Speakers discussed the ways that the industry could be potentially scaling down on traditional insurance by increasing innovation and technology. The audience was also intrigued by how to make insurance more inclusive and available to global consumers through the Q&A portion.  One audience member inquired about how companies are working around regulations in developing countries and how it is having an impact on distribution. To answer their question, Senior Managing Director of A.M. Best, Andrea Keenan said that certain countries such as India are integrating insurance regulations into their legislation. She also ended the discussion with one important note, “You can positively impact economic growth through technology”.

Panel Discussion: “The Pathway to Growth and Innovation in the Age of Digital Insurance 2.0 by Majesco

An InsurTech startup and a Greenfield leader discuss how they moved their traditional insurance companies to become more innovative and technologically inclusive. In the age of digital insurance, Danna Gomez of Urban Advantage and Joe Griffith of Ategrity Specialty Insurance talked about their growth in the industry and their use of a platform solution to improve speed to value, unique customer engagement capabilities, and creating a test and learn environment for new products.

Debate Panel: “Agents of Change-InsureTech Face-Off Debate by Capgemini”

Incumbents vs. InsurTechs! A group of traditional insurers battle it out with InsurTech startups in an exciting debate hosted and moderated by Capgemini. On the incumbent’s side, participating companies included Prudential, MetLife, Transamerica, and American Family Insurance. On the InsurTech side, participating companies included Pypestream, Digital Insurance Group, So-Sure, and Verifly. Each participant were required to respond to questions such as “Will InsurTech cause disruption similar to companies such as Netflix, Uber, and Amazon? How will it impact human capital? Will it solve the customer experience challenge?” While both teams agreed that technology and innovation is essential to the growth of the insurance industry, incumbents sided with supporting this kind of growth internally and InsurTechs believed that new services that incorporate traditional insurance is the best way to see progress. At the end, the audience members voted on which team they believed to have a more compelling argument and it was a tie!

Presentation: “Innovation Showcase: A Spotlight on Female Founders”

Four innovative women presented their new and exciting InsurTech products to an audience of potential investors, partners and business professionals. Each presented their demos and product designs for technologies that will help improve the customer experience in insurance. CEO and founder of True Flood Risk, Shelly Klose introduced her app that will provide customers with a convenient way to report flood claims. CEO and founder of vHealth Lab, Nina Sesto, presented an app that includes a portable ECG device that monitors a patient’s heart rate at any moment they may be feeling heart attack symptoms. This product hopes to decrease potential hospital visits and reduce unnecessary costs. Next, CEO and founder of VivaMetrica, Dr. Cindy Lane, introduced a wellness app that will use predictive analytics to accurately predict mortality and reduce risk. Lastly, CEO and founder of Rozie.AI, Dr. Sudha Megan, introduced her product that centralizes insurance lines and provides a more efficient way to communicate with customers using AI technologies.


This was just the tip of the iceberg for InsureTech Connect. There were a lot more panels and discussions to attend and not enough time to see it all.  Gladly, the sessions we did attend provided a very valuable learning experience. The opportunity to learn from industry leaders and connect with InsurTech professionals was bar none. Thank you InsureTech Connect 2018!

For more information about InsureTech Connect visit


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:



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.