InnoVention Competition Paves the Way for Student Startups
The InnoVention prototyping competition is an integral component of the Tandon School of Engineering’s mission to assist students in developing solutions to real world problems. The goal of the program is to build a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that guides students to a path of success. The InnoVention competition is an important first step for students that ultimately encourages students to advance their ideas in the NYU Entrepreneur’s Challenge and NYU Summer Launchpad. Here are just three of the companies that have participated in the InnoVention competition that have successfully established themselves and further developed their products:
Physiclo (originally known as Skinesiology during the 2014 InnoVention competition) was co-founded by an NYU School of Medicine student, Frank Yao and Columbia University graduate, Keeth Smart. The team placed first in the hardware category and second in the overall competition. Their original concept was described as functional fitness clothing that had built-in resistance to increase the intensity of normal body movements. In other words, workout clothes that help you train harder and smarter.
Physiclo’s path to success began with the team’s participation in the Tandon School of Engineering’s Prototyping Fund where they started to develop their athletic wear. The prototyping aspect of the InnoVention competition was critical to Physiclo’s success. Yao recollects, “Going through InnoVention and having the resources (and impetus) to actually create physical mockups and prototypes helped us better understand our product, our business, and ultimately how we would serve our customers.” After the competition, Physiclo applied what they learned and used the progress they made to go on and win the NYU Entrepreneur’s Challenge the same year.
The technical aspects of creating the functional fitness wear with built-in resistance proved to be the most challenging aspect of the process for Physiclo’s team. “Our main challenge was figuring out the technical aspects of creating resistance and incorporating that into clothing, so in that respect we went through tons of different iterations to try out different materials and designs,” Yao explains. Many of the components were acquired through common online resources and now, after two years of development, Physiclo’s final product is ready for production.
Where are they now? After completing a successful crowd-funding campaign, raising over $150,000 in pre-sales, Physiclo has opened an online store and is receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from customers. The outlook for the Physiclo team in 2016 full of optimism and excitement.
Physiclo’s advice to those participating in this year’s InnoVention prototyping competition is to maximize time efficiency. Yao states, “Your time and resources are limited, so come up with a plan early about how you’re going to prove your concept, then work backwards to figure out what you need to actually build.”
BotFactory, composed of co-founders Carlos Ospina, MS Computer Engineering ’14, and Nicolas Vansnick, MS Electrical Engineering ’13, participated in the 2013 InnoVention competition and received second place for hardware and third place overall. The team was invited to participate in the NYU Summer Launchpad following their InnoVention success.
Described as a personal circuit factory, BotFactory’s original product design for the InnoVention Competition was rudimentary, consisting of a just a few parts to construct a modified 3D printer. However, BotFactory’s work was recognized as one of the most innovative and unique products in the competition. The duo attributed their success largely in part to the competition pushing them to work together on forming a cohesive product idea with a successful business plan.
Post-InnoVention, the team sustained several design changes, ultimately iterating the prototype eight times. “The last prototype was really different from the original, but the main idea of the product was respected all along,” co-founder Carlos Ospina says. “The most important change in the product design was the target customer.”
BotFactory has experienced great success with their product, increasing their team size from five to ten people and selling 65 of their machines worldwide. “We had a great 2015,” Ospina comments. “Our latest model is very stable and we’re getting great feedback from our customers.”
To those participating in this year’s InnoVention Competition, Ospina offers this, “My advice is to put more effort and time talking to your future customers. The trick is to be honest about the size of the market and what customers expect from your product.”
Suneris Inc. was co-founded by Joe Landolina,'10-'14, and Isaac Miller, who atttended NYU Stern School of Business, '08-'12. The young pair placed first overall at the InnoVention competition in 2011.
The team’s product, known as VetiGel, is an algae-based gel that is designed to quickly halt traumatic bleeding with minimal effort. The product has been hailed as a potentially life-saving device with various applications for animals as well as humans.
The InnoVention competition greatly helped to develop and progress Suneris’s product. “The product constantly evolved and improved,” Miller states. “It started as a theoretical concept that was then tested multiple times in practical circumstances. It was consistently evaluated for areas of greater efficiency, both in function and production abilities.” The dual development approach of InnoVention enabled Suneris to effectively advance the product’s potential, medically and commercially.
While still awaiting FDA approval, VetiGel shows great promise. The Suneris team, based in Brooklyn, has reached 20 employees and is currently awaiting the construction of a manufacturing facility in preparation of the product’s launch.
In hopes that new participants will follow in their footsteps, the team offers guidance to those participating in this year’s InnoVention competition:
“Be persistent in your pursuit of developing your invention, look for resources within and outside of the university, while paying special attention to the implications on ownership of your intellectual property,” Miller expresses. “Seek knowledge from professors and industry professionals, and judge every decision for yourself, regardless of who is giving you advice.”
Tandon School of Engineering
B.S. in Mechanical Engineering | Class of 2016
M.S. in Financial Engineering | Class of 2016