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Ideas Competition Fuels New Ventures

Reimagined and enhanced, this year’s Ideas Competition welcomed an increased number of applicants and nurtured ventures with wide-reaching impacts.

With over half a million entrepreneurs worldwide, entrepreneurship is a popular field for those looking to push the boundaries of what’s possible today and address society’s toughest problems. Solving day-to-day pain points, uncovering new opportunities and giving hope to people across the world – it all starts with an idea. If you’ve never done it before, where do you start?

Hosted by the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center on Nov. 13, this year’s Ideas Competition and Live Finals were reconceptualized to help students and community members with all different levels of experience in the field.

“We are so proud of all the students who applied to the Ideas Competition,” said Elaine Chen, Director of Tufts Entrepreneurship Center and Cummings Family Professor of the Practice in Entrepreneurship. “We congratulate all on taking that very first step towards embracing an entrepreneurial mindset and skill set.”

Supported by five “Getting Started” Jumbo Café workshops, along with popup coaching office hours, the Ideas Competition’s reimagined structure welcomed 145 team members in total and 54 applications this year, an increase of 69 percent from last year.

The Ideas Competition kicks off the process for entrepreneurially-minded community members at Tufts to select and define a problem they are passionate about, propose a solution that brings unique benefits and present a financially sustainable plan to bring it to the world.

Over the course of several weeks, community members received personalized coaching from Tufts alumni Timi Dayo-Kayode, Noah Elion, Amanda Wang and Phillip Ellison.

Leading up to the Live Finals, 10 teams were chosen as finalists – four general technology ventures, three in social impact and three in healthcare. In the end, Resonance Lab, ezTrek, and Lumilin were named winners of this year’s competition. Smart Therapy won the audience’s choice award and Desi Nation earned an honorable mention.

The panel of leading entrepreneurs, who served as judges, included:

  • Karen Cassel, J88, CEO, MedicAlert Foundation; Member of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board
  • Sarah Kugelman, J85, CEO and Founder, Servd Life; Member of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board
  • Iggy Moliver, A10, Head of Product and Strategy, Remedy Product Group; Chairman, Tufts Entrepreneurial Network (TEN)

“I am continually inspired by these young entrepreneurs – their passion, creativity and guts inspire me to work harder, think differently and see more things as possible,” said Karen.

The winning ideas tackled a variety of challenges with international reach. Here’s a look at this year’s winners:

 

Resonance Lab (1st Place)

“There are 240 million people living in rural India without access to proper, affordable and reliable energy,” said Mohit Saini, a co-founder at Resonance Lab, a competitor in March’s $100k New Ventures Competition and former winner of Tufts University’s Fletcher School D-Prize

Mohit added, “Essentially, there are two alternatives to get electricity and they fail to meet the needs of rural customers. The government-controlled electricity is highly unreliable, inadequate and unaffordable. On the other hand, private, off-grid providers have limited penetration in rural areas and offer basic products.”

To address India’s energy needs, Resonance Lab plans to offer innovative solar panels bundled with a range of products like fans and water purifiers. According to the group, in conservative estimates, they can cater to 18 million customers over the next five years with a local microfinance institution partnership that will help them scale quickly and provide financing options.

 

ezTrek (2nd Place)

ezTrek, which improves wheelchair tires and their ability to adapt to different outdoor environments, was inspired by Co-Founder Lenor Levy’s work with children using ambulatory solutions.

ezTrek's minimum viable product
A prototype of ezTrek’s wheelchair solution to increase tire traction and mobility in different terrains.

“I was surprised to find that wheelchair tires aren’t tires at all. They’re slick plastic wheels designed to keep floors un-scuffed but fail in the outdoors completely,” said Lenor Levy, co-founder of ezTrek. “We created ezTrek, the first completely independent low-cost and portable mobility solution that can tackle adverse terrain.”

The startup has created a minimum viable product (MVP), which works as tire sleeves that Velcro onto wheelchair wheels to increase surface area and grip.

“We intend to continue developing our MVP, conducting extensive beta testing and then devoting a sizeable portion [of our winnings] into producing a Kickstarter campaign video,” said Lenor. 

 

Lumilin (3rd Place)

Lumilin is a solution related to insulin delivery for people with diabetes.  “With our Lumilin Therapeutics Optogenetic Bioartificial Pancreas, you have genetically modified cells by us that can auto-sense the insulin and this will be activated with our blue light band,” said Co-Founder Sylvia Chen. “We also have a glucose sensor which means you don’t have to pick your finger and you can track it with our digital app.”

According to the group, 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and those individuals spend $25 billion per year just on Insulin. That amount grows when accounting for associated costs related to other diseases induced by an overdose or underdose of Insulin. 

 

Smart Therapy (Audience Choice Award)

Launched as an Innovation Sprint by MS in Innovation and Management students, Smart Therapy is a two-pronged solution to improve physical therapy and make it more effective. 

“After having conducted over 55 interviews with physical therapists and patients, this is what we found: physical therapy patients are not recovering or suffering further injury because they’re doing their exercises incorrectly or not doing them at all,” said Faris Alquaddoomi, one of the group’s team members. 

Consisting of wearable tech and a mobile application, Smart Therapy assists individuals undergoing physical therapy by enabling users with the ability to track their progress and compliance with prescribed treatments.

 

Desi Nation (Honorable Mention)

Drawing on her own experiences of being born in India and learning about the similarities between Indian and Pakistani culture, Co-Founder Snigdha Shahi was inspired to create the Desi Nation podcast. 

“Think about it as This American Life for South Asia,” said Snigdha. “We want to bring about real people who share their stories, their journeys and their experiences from both sides of the [Indian-Pakistan] border to build a shared South Asian identity and really bring about our shared humanity.”

Snigdha went onto say, “The list of topics that we want to cover range from education, development issues, policy issues, art, culture, music, cooking and even entrepreneurship and technology.”

The group behind Desi Nation plans on conducting a pilot study and is exploring a variety of revenue-generating models like subscriptions, branded episodes and merchandise.

While the Ideas Competition has concluded, this is just the beginning with more competitions and funding opportunities planned for this academic year. “Congratulations to all the teams on a fantastic competition!” said Iggy. “I was truly impressed by the thoughtful ideas and well-prepared presenters.”

View upcoming events, competitions, and find entrepreneurship resources at: https://go.tufts.edu/TECportal