Founder(s) of the Week: Vikram Krishnamoorthy and George Pandya

If you only learn one thing from Vikram and George, it should be…

Don’t be an aspiring entrepreneur; be an entrepreneur. Make the necessary mistakes for future success, because you learn best by doing. Instead of thinking about starting a company, just go for it! Starting to talk to people and building a startup will teach you a lot more and faster than just reading secondary sources. Also, having a good combination of persistence and flexibility is critical on the entrepreneurship journey.

When Vikram Krishnamoorthy (C’20, W’20) and George Pandya (E’20, W’20) saw the first FDA approved cell-therapy technologies come out of Penn, they were excited by the possibilities this breakthrough could have. However, the treatment was not without a cost—in fact, it came with a rather hefty price tag. They used this as inspiration to create a better way to reengineer cells, and that technology turned into their startup: CytoFoundry.

 

CytoFoundry uses a new method of genetically engineering cells for cell therapy to make cures that are unique on the market for a variety of diseases. There are many problems in the currently existing abilities of cell therapy, such as a limitation on the number of lines of biological code that is able to be inputted. The two founders have dedicated themselves to unlocking the full potential of this type of innovation as well as to allowing patients to overcome the inhibitive expenses of this technology.

 

As student entrepreneurs, one of the biggest challenges Vikram and George have to face is time management. Both startups and school are very time-consuming, and trying to coordinate these two at a reasonable pace is in no way an easy task. However, the founders mentioned that it is definitely doable. In the biotech industry, capital is an essential part of the startup process. The demand for funding to invest in materials creates a barrier entry that companies in this field must overcome. Vikram and George have effectively utilized new technologies, ones that may speed up the prototyping process or cut corresponding costs, to maneuver around this. They said that the Weiss Tech House has also provided great resources, mentorship, and funding opportunities to help with their startup. Even though they have only worked on CytoFoundry for one year, they have already accumulated multiple notable accomplishments, such as being finalists in the Y-Prize Competition and winning second place at Pennvention, just to mention a few.

Check out the full interview here: CytoFoundry

Founder of the Week: Hunter Liu

 

 

If you only learn one thing from Hunter, it should be that…

Passion is the most important thing an entrepreneur should have. His and his brother’s passion for educational reform has helped them overcome the obstacles that arose on their journey in creating infinity2o. If an entrepreneur is passionate about their vision and their company, they will give whatever they can to that project, thereby helping the most people possible in the process.

 

Many Penn students have had encounters with online courses—and the difficulties that come with taking them. These courses are an amazing resource, but the experience is very independent and the student must be self-motivated in order to reap the full benefit. Hunter Liu (SEAS ‘22) learned a plethora of skills using Coursera, but it was only last summer, when he took an online robotics course with his brother, that he first enjoyed this learning method. From that summer, Hunter and his brother would go on to develop infinity2o to help others connect with fellow online learners.

 

infinity2o is an online platform that connects people who take online courses together. This startup hopes to break the social barrier between online learners, who usually take classes alone. Through voting and asking questions, users are able to connect with those that share similar learning objectives, beliefs, and experiences. Because the online courses industry is fairly open, infinity2o has been able to tailor their platform to best fit users’ needs and desired experiences.

 

For many student entrepreneurs, time management is a constant challenge and Hunter is no exception. He says that he sometimes feels that he should be allocating more of his time towards classes, meeting people, or coding instead of running his startup, but he finds work-life balance by prioritizing his family and friends. Because infinity2o is constantly trying to improve its interface, Hunter and his brother are always trying to find the best way to implement new features with code that runs fast and is aesthetically pleasing.

 

The Weiss Tech House has been a resource on Penn’s campus that Hunter has utilized on his entrepreneurial journey, both as a space to work on his company and as a mentorship source through its WeissLabs, WeissFund, and WeissPitch sectors. Hunter has also used the Tech House’s events as opportunities to meet others with the same passion for entrepreneurship that he has. Since they first started in January, the two founders of infinity2o have used this resource, along with others, to build and grow their company, as well as to optimize the online learning experience. Looking back on his experience, Hunter wishes that he had started his entrepreneurial journey earlier so he that could help more people than he already has.  

 

Check out the full interview here: FOTW Infinty2o

Founder of the Week: Johnny Forde

If you only learn one thing from Johnny, it should be that…

You should talk to Professor Jeffrey Babin if you want to be inspired. Also, aspiring entrepreneurs should not be risk-averse, but rather have a keen eye for existing problems in today’s world and leveraging your skills to solve these problems. There will always be someone who can solve a problem, but the critical part is identifying it in the first place.

This founder created his first website only 48 hours after he decided to pursue the endeavor by watching Youtube videos . His inspiration stemmed from wanting to help his mother’s art studio gain more exposure after she mentioned that it would be really helpful to have a website. From this, Johnny Forde has taken his passion for inventing and creating to build a startup that helps turn the creative language of coding into a technical one.

Johnny’s company, Forde Design, creates functional and aesthetic websites for students and professional institutions, striving to mitigate the learning curve that customers face when using traditional website-building services. By building a virtual platform to showcase their services or work samples, Forde Design helps individuals realize the potential for their businesses or portfolios. He believes that this is especially crucial given the environment of our digital age. In his field, many build-your-own-website companies like Wix or Weebly don’t realize that consumers can find the initial starting stage difficult, and this is where Forde Design’s client-oriented model comes in to help alleviate that issue.

Like many student entrepreneurs, Johnny faces both business and academics responsibilities. He says that his biggest challenges stem from trying to strike a balance between these two types of duties, given that he is simultaneously pursuing a master’s in mechanical engineering alongside his bachelor’s degree in bioengineering. All of Johnny’s marketing has been executed in a word-to-mouth manner as of now, but this can still be overwhelming with his academic obligations. Speaking of school, he praised the Engineering Entrepreneurship (EENT) I and II courses at Penn and Professor Babin’s instruction. Johnny was also in WeissLab’s previous summer cohort, and received thorough mentorship in a variety of business areas like marketing, legal aspects, and pitching to investors. This has enabled Johnny to help noteworthy clients such as the head of Penn’s bioengineering department to promote his research.

Check out the full interview here: FOTW Forde Design