Tandon for the Win
In a Competition-Filled Week, Tandon Teams Triumph
On May 3, after months of mentoring, prototyping, and refining their ventures, the finalists in the NYU InnoVention Society’s hotly contested InnoVention Competition made their final pitches to judges.
The original dozen teams – chosen back in December 2017 – had been winnowed down to six, and the tension in the room was palpable. At stake was a prize pool of $45,000, a plethora of valuable start-up resources, and a chance to participate in NYU’s Summer LaunchPad accelerator, an immersive nine-week program whose graduates include such disruptive young companies as Brooklinen and BotFactory.
During the opening remarks, Tim Nugmanov, the president of the club that runs the annual competition noted that this year’s cohort was the most inventive and inspiring group of NYU entrepreneurs to date, with participants hailing from eight different NYU schools and 12 countries — and with nine of the teams having a female co-founder. “We tried something different this year by running the program earlier and, more importantly, in a cohort model as opposed to an elimination competition. The changes were a success in that the teams had more time and space to connect, grow, and help one another, while being exposed to more entrepreneurial resources and opportunities at NYU; in fact, most of the teams were able to take advantage of other programs such as the Prototyping Fund, $300k Entrepreneurs Challenge, NYU Entrepreneurs Festival, and the Mobile App Contest.”
Only three would be chosen as Innovention winners, and the judges (Kurt Becker of NYU Tandon, Alon Bonder of Venrock, Trace Cohen of New York Venture Partners, and Will Koffel of Google) admitted to the difficulty of selecting the top contestants. Given the School of Engineering’s focus on creating technology that solves global problems and serves society, few were surprised when, in the end, the three winning teams all involved Tandon students.
InnoVention Competition Winners
Third-place: Merciless Motors ($10,000) is comprised of electrical engineering student Nader Ahmed and a Gallatin teammate in charge of business development. Ahmed — who as a teen bought and repaired junk cars to sell at a profit — is creating a powerful, lightweight, efficient electric motor, and he credits Professors Francisco De Leon and Matthew Campisi with giving him the confidence to pursue the project, which, he predicts, could save companies like Tesla millions of dollars a year.
Second-place: HealthHuddle ($15,000) was co-founded by computer science grad student Andrew Dempsey, along with teammates from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Medicine, and Wagner. Their software platform, which integrates and displays patient information for hospital caregivers, adds a layer of efficiency and assurance, particularly at problem-prone times such as shift changes. “Although we’re an interdisciplinary team,” Dempsey has said, “we all share an interest in helping nurses achieve their ultimate goal: providing care for their patients.”
First-place: Sunthetics ($20,000) is already a familiar name within Tandon. Founded by Class of 2018 valedictorian Myriam Sbeiti and grad student Daniela Blanco, the company (which also counts upon the help of Tandon students Ben Rizkin and Kyle Ireland) is based on technology they worked on in the lab of Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Miguel Modestino, who was himself recently named among the MIT Technology Review’s top “Latin American Innovators under 35” and who garnered a Global Change Award from the H & M Foundation for his efforts. With Sunthetics, the team hopes to utilize their technology to help eco-conscious textile manufacturers harness solar power to fuel needed electrochemical and thermochemical reactions, thereby eliminating fossil fuels from their processes. With an estimated 6 million tons of petrochemical-based nylon produced worldwide each year, in a process that generates significant emissions of carbon dioxide, Sunthetics is poised to make an enormous positive impact.
A Winning Streak
The InnoVention victory was not the only exciting news that Sbeiti, Blanco, and their team received recently. NYU’s $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge — hosted annually by the W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs — also culminated that week, and Sunthetics walked away with $100,000 as the sole winner of the “Technology Venture” track in that major competition, which had attracted more than 200 teams from schools across NYU’s global campuses.
Also garnering laurels was HealthHuddle, which landed top prize in the Mission: Appossible NYU Mobile App Contest.
Additionally, congratulations are due to Vishwali Mhasawade, a Tandon master’s student in the Visualization and Data Analytics (VIDA) lab, who was part of the team that won in the “Social Venture” category. Their innovation, FairFrame, which won $75,000, is an AI platform that helps users spot unconscious bias and gives in-the-moment support to HR managers seeking to foster inclusive workplaces.
It’s been, on the whole, a competition season that proves that Tandon students are in it to win it!