15th Anniversary Countdown: 15 CCEI Startups

We are thrilled to announce the celebration of our 15 years as the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. This is a special occasion to acknowledge the ideas that turned into businesses, the entrepreneurs and mentors who turned into family, and the support system who made it all possible. As a member of the CCEI community, we hope you can join us for our celebratory, all-day event on Friday, December 2, 2022, as we acknowledge the past, present, and future of CCEI.

As a countdown to the actual day of the event, weekly blog posts will go out each Friday. These blogs will focus on something (or someone!) important to CCEI and to our history and community.

For our second week, we’d like to touch on 15 successful CCEI startups we believe you should know about. These 15 startups, at one point in the entrepreneurial process, received support and guidance through a CCEI program.

While this is only a select few, be sure to visit our startup page and our Summer Fellowship page to see a larger selection of the startups we've helped in the past 15 years.

1. Bastion

Bastion, founded by Reza Amin '18 PhD (ENG), is a reproductive health startup specialized for men. The startup allows for virtual health visits, testing kits, and treatment plans based on patients’ needs. In November of 2020, Bastion signed a $2.2 million dollar investment agreement initiated through UConn’s Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Bastion was a participant in our Summer Fellowship Program and won the 2018 CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition

Learn more about this startup here or visit their website here

2. Encapsulate

Encapsulate, founded by Armin Tahmasbi Rad ’19 (ENG), Leila Daneshmandi '20 PhD (ENG), and Reza Amin '18 PhD, develops an “automated “tumor-on-a-chip” system that can grow a patient’s cancer cells outside the body to evaluate their response to different chemotherapy drugs.” In doing so, chemo drugs can be tested prior to starting actual treatments. In November of 2019, Encapsulate won the 2019 International Space Station U.S. Laboratory and Boeing “Technology in Space” Prize, receiving $500,000 and the opportunity to work with ISS. Encapsulate was a participant in our Summer Fellowship Program and was a finalist in the Wolff New Venture Competition. 

Learn more about this startup here and at their website here

3. Lactation Innovations

Created by UConn alumnae Jayme Coates MS ’07, MBA ’10 and Brittany Molkenthin ’17 (NUR), Lactation Innovations offers a solution to monitor the amount of breastfed nutrients a child receives. The non-invasive technology would allow mothers to theoretically breastfeed for a longer period of time, allowing for health benefits and saving money. Lactation Innovations won the 2022 CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition this past October, bringing home the grand prize of $25,000 to use towards their entrepreneurial efforts. 

Learn more about this startup here and visit their website here.

4. LambdaVision

Nicole Wagner ’07 (CLAS) ’13 PhD created LambdaVision with the intention to help people regain sight by developing a protein-based artificial retina for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or retinitis pigmentosa (RP). LambdaVision was a participant in our Summer Fellowship Program and a finalist in our Wolff New Venture Competition. LambdaVision recently “found success manufacturing their technology” working with NASA and the International Space Station (ISS). 

Learn more about this startup here and visit their website here.

5. Levo International

Created by Christian Heiden '21 (CLAS), Levo International works to bring solar-powered hydroponic systems to communities in Haiti, where they teach sustainability and globalization while giving back to others. In 2022, Levo International provided 300 school children with hydroponics, while simultaneously launching an urban farming CSA in Hartford, CT, pioneering a new approach to the local food system. Levo International participated in our Summer Fellowship Program and was a finalist in the 2019 CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition.

Learn more about this startup here or visit their website here

6. Luma Hydration

Luma Hydration, started by founders BYU student Willy Hogan and Jaden Brodeur ‘20 (BUS), combats bottled water by building the first hydration unit to combine UV-C light (to eradicate bacteria) with optional filtration via activated Carbon (to treat water for other pollutants) coming in 2023. Luma is now being advised by the founder of Hydro Flask and has partnered with top manufacturers of water bottles in China, according to a Storied Tech article

Learn more about their startup here or at their website here

7. onewith

Started by Hayley Segar '17 (CLAS), onewith is a patent-pending swimwear company that specializes in creating swimwear that fits and feels like seamless underwear. This provides universally flattering products where customers do not have to worry about seams or edges that cut into skin. onewith was a participant in our Summer Fellowship and our Wolff New Venture Competition. 

Learn more about this startup by visiting their website here

8. Phoenix Tailings

Founders Nicholas Myers and Michael Martin ’17 (ENG) ’19 MS created a startup that recycles toxic sludge and extracts valuable metals from the waste that can be used in more innovative ways, such as in the production of electronics, automobiles, and more. In 2019, Phoenix Tailings won the CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition and took home the $20,000 prize. 

Learn more about this startup here and visit their website here.

9. Pisces Atlantic

Founded by Peter Goggins ’21 (CAHNR), Pisces Atlantic is an innovative fish food, based on Goggins’ belief that the “fish people consume should be fed healthy ingredients.” The fish food ​​is a compound consisting primarily of dehydrated vegetables and insects. Pisces Atlantic also won the 2020 CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition and the $20,000 prize. 

Learn more about this startup here and visit their website here.

10. ProVelocity Bat

Elijah Taitel ’22 (BUS, ENG) used his knowledge of baseball to create a technologically savvy baseball bat, complete with a “sliding ‘power barrel’ that releases to the impact position when a batter achieves the desired speed.” The bat has reached the big leagues, getting attention from MLB teams and many others.  ProVelocity Bat won the 2021 CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition, receiving $20,000 in entrepreneurial support. 

Learn more about this startup here or at their website

11. Queen Bee

Raina Jain ’24 (BUS), founder of Queen Bee and avid fan of honey bees, developed an all-natural “beverage by mixing royal jelly, sometimes called ‘superfood of the Queen Bee,’ from beehives with ginger and turmeric.” In 2021, grocery giant Whole Foods allowed Jain to sell her product in their stores. Queen Bee was also among the five finalist startups selected to participate in the 2021 CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition.

Learn more about this startup here and visit their website here

12. SedMed

SedMed, co-founded by Jeremy Bronen ’20 (ENG) and Timothy Krupski MA (ENG) MBA ‘21, created a toilet lift assist product to help elderly and disabled individuals get on and off the toilet. SedMed realized that many senior citizens or otherwise disabled people struggle with daily toileting activities leading to falls, injuries, and even deaths. SedMed was chosen to participate as a top-five finalist in the 2020 CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition

Learn more about this startup here and visit their website here.

13. Sourcery

Imagined and created by a team of UConn faculty and staff, Sourcery is a web application used to make it easier to access some of the world’s most sought-after archives and rare collections. Researchers can now access document archives, accessible from any device. In early 2022, Sourcery was awarded a $805,000 grant, distributed over two years, to help with the development of the app. Sourcery was a participant in our Summer Fellowship Program. 

Learn more about this startup here, or visit the website/app here

14. Stemify

Stemify, created to combat the dropouts of many college students majoring in STEM, uses an “innovative approach to math education that utilizes artificial intelligence to support learning.” Originally idealized in 2013 by Amit Savkar, UConn associate professor in residence of mathematics, Stemify then took on Bill Moschella, TIP Advisory Board member, as an investor and executive chairman. Stemify was a participant in the 2018 CCEI Accelerate UConn Program and the Summer Fellowship Program. 

Learn more about this startup here or at their website here

15. VeraDermics

VeraDermics, composed of a large group of dermatologists including Reid Waldman MD, a former UConn Health dermatology resident, is the first ever kid-friendly and easy-to-use wart treatment. The product, WartPatch, combines the most effective wart treatment with a kid-friendly drug delivery platform via microneedle patch. VeraDermics participated in CCEI’s 2020 Summer Fellowship program and was selected as a top-five finalist to compete in the 2020 CCEI Wolff New Venture Competition

Learn more about this startup here or at their website here

Meet the Teams | Team 3

Meet our final BUILD Hartford team, Team 3!

Team 3: Economic Development Zones- Municipal Stakeholders

Team Members: Adam Genera, Zoey England, Kashish Manchanda, Swetha Arayamparambil

First up on Team 3, we have Adam Genera. Adam worked at an immigration law firm this past summer where he realized he wanted to work in the immigration advocacy space. Adam is looking to start a non-profit organization to provide language interpretation assistance to US citizen seekers. 

Zoey England is an honors student completing an Individualized degree entitled Population Health, Policy, and Disease and concurrent FastTrack Masters in Public Health. Zoey spends a great deal of time volunteering with the U.S. Medical Reserve Corps in various capacities and the UConn American English Language Institute as a Conversation Partner. A published journalist, Zoey enjoys covering topics related to climate change, public health, and social networks.

Kashish Manchanda is an MBA Business Analytics candidate with experience in the social development space and a deep passion for ESG leveraging data and ESG skills to add value to Sustainable and Responsible Organizations. Kashish has worked as an Impact consultant in India for major NGOs, CSOs (Corporate Social Organizations), Foundations, and Governments. He provided advisory services to many corporates from setting up the CSRs to maximizing the impact on the ground through Grassroot organizations. His clientele included JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer India, Pernod Ricard India, and National Stock Exchange. Kashish’s passion for data-based decision-making and promoting business sustainability at multiple forums has been driving him to lead a value-adding life.

Swetha Arayamparambil, a graduate student at UConn, will also be joining Team 3.

Meet the Teams | Team 2

build hartford team two

Meet our second BUILD Hartford team!

Team 2: Peer Cities Review- Communities
Team Members: Helen Yang, JiaLiAn Stolfi, Natalie Roach, Mehak Sharma

Helen Yang is an honor undergraduate student and serves as the Media Chair of Honors for Diversity. Helen is a first-generation college student and is looking forward to opening her perspective to entrepreneurship through community-building.

Next on Team 2, we have JiaLiAn Stolfi. JiaLiAn is an undergraduate student pursuing a dual degree in finance and journalism. She is looking forward to working with local businesses this semester to ideate unique solutions regarding wealth disparities and homelessness in Hartford. Previously, JiaLiAn participated in a similar program, The Global Leadership Institute, where she hosted a cultural event to increase acceptance in the community.

Mehak Sharma is on the pre-med track and is fascinated by the way innovation and entrepreneurship can be used to provide solutions for addressing community health issues.

Natalie Roach, a graduate student at UConn, will also be joining the team.

Meet the Teams | Team One

Our BUILD teams are officially final, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Meet Team 1: Surveys and Pain Points- Small Business & Startup Stakeholders

Team Members: Logan Singerman, Becky Obro, Mariah Boria

Logan Singerman is in his last semester at UConn, obtaining a Master's in Public Administration (MPA). Logan is currently the Director of Community Partnerships and Communications at SINA, as well as the co-owner of the Hartford Bride. He organizes volunteer events and facilitates resident-led community projects such as playgrounds, murals, and community gardens. Logan previously served as a Director of Outreach at a homeless outreach center and also an AmeriCorps VISTA.

Becky Obro grew up in West Africa, where she realized the importance of empowering others with resources and skills to make them more independent. Becky was inspired to start her own business in 2017 as she saw that entrepreneurship is one of the keys to reducing poverty, unemployment, and many other societal issues. Becky’s business, CHOP GHANA (literally meaning “eat” or “taste”) delivered packed lunches and catering services to offices and other functions. Through this, Becky was able to employ 10 young people in Ghana. 

Mariah Boria, an undergraduate student at UConn, will also be joining Team 1.

Forming Teams

The inaugural BUILD Hartford cohort has officially broken off into teams! In our second class, the students shared their results from the ‘16 Personalities’ test as well as their insights for which aspects of the BUILD Hartford program interested them. They were then provided with the ‘Clifton Strengths for Students Top 5’ test, which allowed them to discover their top five strengths based on the answers they provided.

Logan Singerman, an MPA student in the department of Public Policy at UConn, as well as the Director of Community Partnerships & Communications at SINA, described the importance of creating teams, “I have learned through my work at a community building nonprofit that the only things that last and are effective are what you build together. That’s why our process to select teams was so collaborative. Everyone had a chance to share their preferences and vote on what criteria we should use for choosing teams. As a group we recognized that people work the best on things they are passionate about. Teams were selected based on people‘s preferences while also trying to balance out different personality types. We all had taken the Myers Briggs assessment and saw the value in having balanced teams.”

Stay tuned for the team highlights coming soon!

The Launch of BUILD Hartford

Today we officially launched BUILD Hartford! During this semester long course, students will work to develop their entrepreneurial skill set in customer discovery, strategic planning, and community connections.

In the beginning of the semester, students will be placed into teams as they collaborate to research potential projects based around economic, innovative, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the City of Hartford.

Follow the journey of BUILD, as the first cohort of students lay the foundation for the future of this program. We will be continually updating the community on the progress of this course through our blog, as well as our other social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

If you have any questions regarding the BUILD program, please feel free to reach out to Michaela Hartl via email:

Summer Fellowship Feature: Jeremy Bronen

It’s been one year since I formally joined up with my Co-Founder Tim Krupski and so much has happened! Tim and I created a patent pending toilet lift assist product to help the elderly and disabled get on and off the toilet. The 3 CCEI programs Tim and I attended essentially transformed our idea into a viable business. I knew it was time for me to transition from a part time venture to fully onboarding to SedMed when Tim and I reached the point where we realized we needed to fully commit to the great opportunity we had. Knowing that SedMed has the opportunity to save people’s lives and prevent injuries along with the overwhelming support of my family, friends, and mentors inspired me to make the jump.

It’s funny, my whole outlook on life has actually completely changed since I became full-time on SedMed – I am much much happier and am more motivated than ever. I came on full time as CEO to launch and run our company with my co-founder. The extra time I gained being full time has allowed me to devote way more time to key meetings, work on BD, and network constantly. I also will be driving our prototype around to scores of important stakeholders, users, and investors to review and demo it. My first week being a full-time CEO was BUSY! Before I made the jump, Tim and I organized every task imaginable for the next 12 months into our project management software so we knew we had a lot to get done. As I mentioned, being able to fully commit myself to our venture is one of the most freeing, motivating, and serotonin-producing things I’ve ever done. It’s a lifestyle that comes with a lot of work, but will be the most rewarding when we are able to help people and scale our business. 

Announcing the 2020-2021 InsurTech Fellows


The InsurTech Fellows Program is a collaborative effort between UConn’s CT Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and the University of Hartford and is funded by CTNext. Thirteen graduate and undergraduate students have been invited to participate in the program during the 2020-2021 academic year. Designed to increase student’s understanding of the insurance industry and grow the next generation of innovators within the InsurTech space, students will work directly with new and innovative InsurTech startups, receive personal mentorship from insurance leaders, gain access to networks in the InsurTech ecosystem, connect to exciting job opportunities and internships and earn $4,000 in scholarship funding for their participation.

Expanding on the foundational knowledge gained in a previous InsurTech Venturing course taught by Ken Goldstein, Clinical Instructor of Risk Management and Insurance at the University of Hartford and Michael Kalen, CEO of Covr Financial Technologies, they will gain first-hand experience working with an InsurTech startup via the Nassau Re/Imagine incubator program. Each fellow will also receive mentors to provide professional guidance and support over the course of the spring semester.

Below is the list of the fellows that were selected to participate in the 2020-2021 InsurTech Fellows Program. We are proud to have accepted 9 UConn students and 4 UHart students, spanning across multiple academic programs and includes both graduate and undergraduate students. Join us in congratulating these newly initiated fellows for their participation in such an incredible opportunity.

Alok Bhatt –Master of Business Adminstration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Andrew Tran -Management Information Systems, School of Business

Eleanor Umaya -LL.M in Insurance Law, University of Connecticut, School of Law

Ian Thomas -Accounting, University of Hartford, Barney School of Business

Jailynn Vidro -Psychological Sciences, University of Connecticut, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Kate Sargis -Risk Management, University of Hartford, Barney School of Business

Kevin Robert Fitzgerald -Master of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Meg North -Master of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Nicholas Bosio -Insurance and Risk Management, University of Hartford, Barney School of Business

Nishant Jain -Master of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Utkarsh Gupta -Master of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Yoanny Brito -Management, University of Hartford, Barney School of Business

Youngho Kwon -Management Information Systems, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Get Seeded Pitch Night #2 Winners

Monday night CCEI hosted their second Get Seeded Pitch Night of the school year. Five teams presented their ideas: Aqualytics, Flush Warranty, Immaculate The Brand, SchoolMe, and SortME. After a period of question and answer along with feedback and voting from the audience, the top three winners were awarded.

In third place awarded $500 was Nick Anderson with Flush Warranty.

In second place awarded $750 was Hritish Bhargava and Abhishek Bhargava with SchoolME.

In first place awarded $1,000 was Patricia Olivia and Djuly Fleurant with Immaculate The Brand.

Thank you to everyone who pitched and joined the event, we hope to see you at the next Pitch Night on January 26, 2021. If you have an idea and want to participate in the upcoming Pitch Night, please submit your application.

Digital Surgeons Brings Branding Expertise to CT Startups

Accelerating your business through brand and marketing

“Should I really be worried about my brand?”

With so many things to focus on like product development and raising capital, have you ever found yourself asking that same question?

Chances are, if you’re an entrepreneur or in marketing, you’ve pondered the question at least a few times.

Ask Joe Pilcavage, Head of Creative at New Haven’s Digital Surgeons , a creative consultancy that specializes in positioning, branding, and launching visionary founders’ latest startups, and you’ll get an answer that might surprise you.

He’ll tell you that, “One of the single greatest reasons businesses fail is because of their branding. At some point in the journey, whether it’s their initial inception or their future marketing efforts, they fail to deeply understand their customers and deliver a consistent experience that answers their needs.”

That’s because a brand, as it turns out, is something people feel . Our ability to create a positive, lasting feeling is what ultimately gets investors and customers to buy in.

Wait a minute. Really?

Sounds like something worth exploring, right? Well, that’s exactly what Pilcavage and Pete Sena, CEO and co-founder of Digital Surgeons, did for a dozen Connecticut startups at the CCEI 2020 Summer Fellowship Program in late June as part of their thinkfwd initiative. Pilcavage and Sena, who together have over thirty years of experience in brand strategy, go-to-market innovation, and digital transformation, broke branding down bit-by-bit for the eager entrepreneurs. What follows are a few key takeaways of their presentation, one that was enthusiastically received by those in attendance and still being talked about here at the CCEI.

8 Key Takeaways From the Digital Surgeons Branding Presentation

  1. Branding works because of the emotional attachment we give to a product or a purpose.
  2. Brands are living organisms that must respond, adapt, and evolve over time.
  3. Positioning is all about deciding the space you want to occupy in the minds and lives of your audience.
  4. When you try to speak to everyone, you’re heard by no one.
  5. Humanizing your brand into what Digital Surgeons calls Brand DNA allows you to set a north star for how you want to communicate to and with your customers.
  6. Your brand’s tone of voice should be a driver of differentiation in your space.
  7. Your visual language is your voice without words. Choose your logo, colors, fonts, and images wisely. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
  8. Your brand should be regarded as sacred, but that doesn’t mean it’s untouchable. Testing, learning, and iterating often are vital in continuously providing a stellar brand experience.

Throughout the course of the program, Pilcavage and Sena also led exercises with the entrepreneurs to help them refine their own brands in real-time. Interested in doing them on your own? Click here to check them out. And if you want to learn more about Digital Surgeons, their work, and branding in general, hop over to the Digital Surgeons website.

Digital Surgeons