Innovating, pitching, and persevering

InnoVention, NYU Tandon’s flagship entrepreneurial competition, draws to an exciting finish

InnoVention Participants

The 2019 InnoVention cohort at the Finals Demo Day

InnoVention is Tandon’s annual challenge to NYU students from across the globe to prototype and pitch commercially viable ideas for real-world problems. This past January, 12 student ventures were chosen to participate in what has evolved into a unique mix of competition and accelerator, with participants engaging in a demanding series of workshops, coaching sessions, and other such events.

By May 2, the field had been winnowed to six finalists, who prepared to pitch before a large and excited audience — and a panel of formidable judges, including Brian Cohen, a founding partner of NYVP; Frank Rimalovski, the managing director of the NYU Innovation Venture Fund; Jenny Fielding, the managing director of Techstars NYC; and Oliver Mitchell, a founding partner of Autonomy Ventures.

It was a landmark event in multiple respects. As NYU Tandon Dean Jelena Kovačević, who opened the evening, explained, this year marked the first time InnoVention had included equal numbers of men and women founders — a distinct change from even a few years ago, when only 1 in 4 participants was a woman. Additionally, this was the final time that the competition would be overseen by Tim Nugmanov, the outgoing president of the InnoVention Society, the on-campus club that spearheads the initiative, and a familiar face in Tandon’s startup community. (His successor is incoming president Neal Rooney.)

Tandon teams performed valiantly in the finals, and when the rigorous (bordering on Shark Tank-like) judging was over, victors from the School of Engineering included:

  • WOKEN,  a career exploration platform aimed at helping job seekers hone in on their goals and discover what they’ll really love doing. The team, which garnered third place, included intern Karen Zhou (Tandon ’22).   

  • FlareAgent, a platform that reduces housing costs and transaction times by increasing visibility for home buyers and sellers and encouraging collaboration and communication among all parties involved in a transaction. The company, which took home the second-place prize of $15,000, was founded by Abhiroop CVK (Tandon ’19) and Rashid Aziz (Tandon ’19).

  • Audience Choice winner PepperPet, a holographic animal companion that provides pet-caretaking simulation and entertainment for children who can't own pets due to health or financial reasons. The team is comprised, astonishingly, solely of Tandon freshman, including Tengku Hana Shafikah, Neha Vasudevan, Huanhui (Belinda) Che, and Lambert Wu.

InnoVention was the inspiration for the Center for K12 STEM Education’s ITEST (Innovation Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers) InnoVention competition. The high school participants obviously have great role models to follow at Tandon and a lot to look forward to if they continue on their paths to STEM entrepreneurship.