Entrepreneurs Innovate for Impact in Ideas Competition

From digital payment services to smart bandages, this year’s Ideas Competition, hosted by the Derby Entrepreneurship Center, awarded prizes to five teams.

Every successful venture – no matter how big or small – starts with an idea. On Nov. 12, the Derby Entrepreneurship Center hosted the culminating finals to its seventh annual Ideas Competition, which virtually welcomed students at Tufts University with all levels of experience to the pitch contest. This year’s theme focused on “innovating for impact,” and judges awarded cash prizes of up to $1,000 to winning teams.

“Tufts students are relentlessly driven to create an impact and solve some of today’s toughest challenges,” said Elaine Chen, Cummings Family Professor of the Practice in Entrepreneurship and Director of the Derby Entrepreneurship Center. “The Ideas Competition helps students to explore how they can do so through innovation and entrepreneurship.

Elaine continued, “We are so proud of all the students who participated in the Ideas Competition. This is just the first step on their entrepreneurial journey and we can’t wait to see all the amazing things they’ll do.”

Tufts Gordon Institute’s Executive Director Kevin Oye commended the participants for their devotion and passion to their ideas, believing that no challenge is too large to tackle.

“You’ve chosen problems that matter. You’ve chosen to reach out to understand real needs, and you are choosing to solve problems that are relevant. Hats off to all of you,” said Kevin. 
The Ideas Competition kicks off the process for entrepreneurial-minded students at Tufts and their teammates to select and define a problem they are passionate about, propose a solution that brings unique benefits, and present a financially sustainable plan before a panel of judges. This year’s judges included:

  • Dr. Ali Hill, MPA, A98, Founder, Sound Advice Women; Managing Partner, Sound Advice Consulting Services
  • Brittany Sokoloff, A14, Chair of the Tufts Entrepreneurial Network — New York Chapter; Associate at Schiff Hardin LLP
  • Alexander Wulkan, E19, Founder & Chief Operating Officer at Estateably

Supported by a series of workshops on topics like how to deliver a good pitch and how to identify problems worth solving, participants leverage the skills they’ve learned and feedback from judges to further their idea. Teams are also encouraged to enter the Derby Entrepreneurship Center’s signature $100k New Ventures Competition in the spring.

Zoom screenshot of Ideas Competition Winners
Participants and attendees gathered over Zoom for the Ideas Competition. Participants had just a few minutes to deliver their pitch before moving into Q&A where judges asked questions and offered feedback.

This year, winning ideas ranged from a digital payment service to smart bandages. Leading up to the live finals, 10 teams were chosen as finalists. In the end, Relámpago, Therrapu, SEWA Health, Lumilin, and Grapevine were named winners of this year’s competition. 

Learn more about the finalist teams:

List of winners for the 2021 Ideas Competition


Relámpago (1st Place and Audience Choice Award)

Relámpago is a digital payment and remittance service that leverages blockchain technology and aims to redefine how remittances are sent, spent, and saved in El Salvador. 

According to the group, the current remittance sending process is time-consuming, expensive, and inefficient. Further citing current challenges like lack of access to mobile internet, Relámpago looks to provide a mid-tech solution that allows Salvadorans in the United States “to send value in cash – instantly and for free – to a card in El Salvador.” 

“Six billion is sent home [to El Salvador] annually, and 200 million at least is lost in fees,” said Eric Flood, one of the members behind Relámpago. “We convert funds and hold them in our blockchain network.” The team has future plans to visit El Salvador to further pursue their venture.


Therrapu (2nd Place) 

Therrapu builds on the work of researchers at Tufts University to develop smart bandages with nano-fiber technology. According to the team, the smart bandages would “detect infections, track healing progression, and administer medication wirelessly using metrics of pH, temperature, and oxygenation.” This data, in turn, could be used by healthcare professionals to inform and guide treatment.

The first application for their technology is related to diabetic foot ulcers. “Nearly 15% of all diabetic patients will go on to develop a diabetic foot ulcer (DFUs), and in 75% of cases, an infection will develop in the wound. These wounds can result in necrosis, amputation, sepsis, and death,” wrote the team.

“We are inexpensive; we are flexible and customizable,” said team member Jemimah Charles, MSIM ‘22.


SEWA Health (3rd Place) 

SEWA Health is a virtual health assistant that seeks to ensure high-quality and cost-effective care to elderly clients. “Our services ease the hassle for children living abroad by coordinating logistics with doctors, hospitals, and diagnostic labs and helping families stay connected across the globe,” wrote the team.

Starting with an international focus, team member Garima Gupta said that with a service like this, “One of the biggest factors is trust. We have to build trust.” “SEWA” is a Punjabi word that means an act of selfless service.


Lumilin Therapeutics (Winning Streak Award)

Returning to the Ideas Competition is Lumilin Therapeutics, a solution related to insulin delivery for diabetic patients that won third place in 2020. Alongside its original co-founders, Lumilin has been furthered with the support of new MS in Innovation & Management students. Judges created this new award category, acknowledging its potential and impact to enhance the standard of care for patients around the world.

“Our innovative insulin therapy is an optogenetic stem cell therapy that is minimally invasive and relies on blue light to naturally produce insulin for diabetics,” shared the team. “Lumilin Therapeutics is aiming to improve the lives of 1.6 million Type 1 Diabetics by providing a long-lasting, more reliable insulin treatment option to clinics.”


GrapeVine (Most Promising Undergraduate Team) 

GrapeVine is a social media platform that allows friends to easily create, share, and find social events with one another, addressing the challenge its co-founders face in that there is currently no effective, centralized way to find out what was going on for college students.

“We have built our platform with the exact pain points that every young adult feels when trying to socialize in mind. GrapeVine’s core value-add to peoples’ socializing experience is how we blend streamlining the logistical hassles that are ever-present when trying to organize something with a group of friends.”

The group has launched the platform at the University of California San Diego, where the co-founders say they have 1,500 users. 

Learn more about the Ideas Competition and the Derby Entrepreneurship Center here.