Founders of the Week: Jeriann Gumilla and Coco Wang

It all started with an eyelash curler. Coco Wang (W ’21) had purchased 4-5 different brands, with no success from any of them. Later on, she discovered that those brands made their curlers to fit the Caucasian eye shape. After wasting both her money and her time, Coco finally found a brand that made curlers targeted to Asian women.

 

This experience inspired Candid Beauty, a synthesized beauty platform that provides users personalized information on beauty products and suggestions. In the app, you create a beauty profile with your preferences and characteristics, and Candid Beauty does the rest. You can see reviews from customers with similar profiles and preferences, ingredient lists, and more.

 

Candid Beauty was founded by Jeriann Gumilla (W ’21) and Coco Wang (W ’21). Jeriann is studying Finance and Management-Entrepreneurship, and Coco is studying Finance and Statistics with a minor in Spanish.  They hope to tackle the lack of transparency in the makeup industry, which is filled with inaccurate reviews, false advertisements, and inconsistent information. Candid Beauty has already received multiple awards and recognition across campus, and the young founders say that it has been a humbling experience, but that they are always moving forward.

 

What should the rest of us entrepreneurs strive for if we want to succeed like the Candid Beauty team has? Jeriann says to take risks, and that “you have to believe in your idea when no one else does.” Coco says not to give up just because one person challenges your product, and urges that entrepreneurs take feedback objectively and as constructive criticism to help grow and improve.

 

Fun fact: Coco can speak six languages, and Jeriann taught herself how to play the ukulele, guitar, and yoga!

 

To learn more about Candid Beauty, visit their website here. To watch the full interview, click here.

Congratulations Pennvention Winners!

This past Tuesday, 8 finalists pitched their start-up ideas to judges in hopes of winning big prizes to make turn their ideas into reality. After two hours of pitches, the judges picked four outstanding teams, with an emphasis on bio-tech and health, to take home prizes. Meet our winners: Sanguis, Carbolytics, NanoXCell, and Stellar.

Sanguis, founded by Divyansh Agarwal (Yale ’15), Daniel Zhang (MIT ’15), and Prateek Agarwal (Harvard ’15), is a portable blood cell monitoring device that allows cancer patients to measure their blood cell counts in a cost-effective, accessible, and simple manner. The device is similar to a glucose  monitor, where patients would prick their finger and use a chip to analyze their blood. This would allow these patients to predict infection before it is too late, and to contact their physicians for preventative treatment instead of having to go to the ER and face high-cost emergency treatment. Their product has been tested on several clinical samples, and they are already in partnership with Jefferson Health. Sanguis took home first place at Pennvention.

The second place winner was Carbolytics, founded by Vikram Krishnamoorthy (C’20, W’20) and George Pandya (M&T ’20).  Carbolytics is a cell therapy platform that uses a microfluidic circuit embedded with a carbon nanopipette that automatically detects the penetration of cells, allowing for automation of the process. This technology can be used to reprogram cells to tackle diseases in a precise and scalable manner with unlimited capacity at a low-cost, beating out current cell therapies that use viral vectors.

NanoXCell Therapeutics, founded by Daniel Lundgren (C’18, W’18), Patrick Lundgren (University of Oxford MsC’18), and Shelby Wilkinson (C’18, W’18), came in third place. Their technology also uses carbon nanopipettes, but aims to help patients with different genetic skin diseases by using a gene therapy process that will allow the transfer of genes larger than the current viral vector technology can store. Treatment is currently difficult because of the size of the gene that leads to these diseases and because of the dominant trait of the disease. NanoXCell solves both of these issues in an automated and inexpensive manner.

Stellar, founded by Hyung Jin Yoo (SEAS ’18), Lila Cohn (SEAS ’18), EricTepper (SEAS ’18), and Haimin Yie (SEAS ’18), took home the Social Impact Award. Stellar is an app that helps those who are dying engage with friends and family, helping to alleviate the social isolation and disengagement that can result when people are near the end of their lives. The app allows the caregiver to form a team of friends and family who can arrange visits, leave voice memos, or contribute to a team album with pictures and other memories that allow for meaningful conversation and engagement. The app will also include product and service recommendations that can help ease the patient’s experience based on what their disease or complication is.

 

Congratulations again to all our winners, and for all the finalists as well!

 

 

 

 

Founder of the Week: Thomas Cavett

This week, meet Thomas Cavett (WG ’18), an army veteran who (fun fact!) spent some time protecting Obama in his motorcade in Asia. Thomas Cavett is co-founder of POWTI Innovations, a company building wearable devices that detect when a traumatic injury has occurred and notifiy emergency personnel.

 

POWTI stands for Point of Wounding Trauma Indicator. The goal of this device is to increase response time to emergency traumatic events, both in the military and in civilian life. POWTI was inspired by Cavett’s time in the military as an Army Green Beret, where he had learned skills to treat his teammates and allies. Sadly, he saw many traumatic injuries where the response time just wasn’t fast enough, and he sought to alleviate this problem.

 

The device is still prototyping, and has undergone several iterations. However, Cavett says a launch will hopefully occur by the end of 2018.

 

Cavett’s most important advice to new entrepreneurs is to “find something you’re passionate about.” He says that entrepreneurship is complicated and chaotic, and working with something you’re passionate about will keep you committed even when things get tough.

 

To learn more about POWTI Innovations, visit their website here. To watch the full interview, visit our YouTube here.

Founder of the Week: Beni Shafer-Sull

Beni Shafer-Sull (SEAS ’21), founder of Loop Vehicles

If you thought you were slacking before, you’ll definitely feel like you are now. Beni Shafer-Sull and his company, Loop Vehicles, are here to save the world.

 

Beni is a freshman studying systems engineering, and has been interested in clean energy for a while now. Last year, he was inspired by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which focused on how carbon-neutral is no longer enough to ease the effects of climate change. It suggested that carbon-negative was needed, and that’s when Beni began thinking.

 

Loop Vehicles is hoping to be the world’s first fully carbon-negative electric car, which will reduce climate change and lead to a more sustainable, green future. According to Loop’s website, their vehicles are projected to have a range of 500 miles. The charging system is also extremely efficient: instead of waiting hours to charge your car, you can pop in a new metal battery cartridge, return the old one to Loop, and move on your way.  Currently, Loop Vehicles is working on small-scale prototyping, and within a few years they hope to have their first product ready for the market.

 

Beni’s company is a Weiss Labs team this year, and he hopes to gain input from other young entrepreneurs who can help with product development. Beni suggests that aspiring innovators take advantage of the multitude of Penn’s opportunities and venues to gain capital, all of which are essential to any successful college start-up.

 

Visit Loop Vehicles website here to learn more, and click here to watch the full interview.

 

Here at the Weiss Tech House, we celebrate, support, and create innovators and thinkers all across Penn’s campus. In the spirit of our mission to advance technological entrepreneurship, we’ve started our new series: Founder of the Week. Each week, look forward to new highlights, interviews, updates, and insights from Penn founders. If there’s anybody you’d like to nominate as a Founder of the Week, preferably Weiss Tech House member or alum, let us know here.

Founder of the Week: Nestor Solari

Being a Latinx student, I love meeting people who strive to make an impact in my community in innovative ways. Here at Weiss Labs, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting someone revolutionizing the insurance industry while aiming to “make being Latino in the U.S. a little bit easier.”

Meet Nestor Solari, a first year MBA student from New Jersey. Solari is a first generation student whose parents immigrated from Uruguay. He has worked in 20 different countries across Latin America and Asia in his previous work experience in micro-finance. His company, Sigos Seguros, is a tech enabled insurance brokerage start-up that hopes to make buying insurance, specifically auto insurance, easier for Hispanic Americans.

His goal goes past impacting the Latinx community, though. He noticed the insurance industry was “antiquated” and that a lot of people went through the process with difficulty. Through his start-up, he hopes to bring the insurance industry to a new age of technology.

Weiss Labs has allowed  him to bounce ideas off other entrepreneurs, directors, and mentors, as well as build a community. Solari advises new entrepreneurs to “have a bias for action.” In this industry, ideas are cheap, and Solari says those interested should move past the analysis stage and jump into the field.

Watch the full interview here, and click here to visit Sigos Seguros website.

Founder of the Week: Adarsh Kulkarni

Adarsh Kulkarni (SEAS ’21), Founder of Growthfolio

Who said freshmen can’t have their own start-ups? Adarsh Kulkarni defies the norm: him and his co-founders have been developing their app, Growthfolio, since middle school.

 

Adarsh Kulkarni (SEAS ’21) is aiming to create a mobile service for college students to learn about investing and practice so they can gather the confidence to work with real money. His co-founders attend the University of Michigan and Virginia Tech, and they have been developing this idea since middle school.

 

Growthfolio’s first iteration, when the founders were younger and first starting out, did not succeed. Adarsh attributes this to a classic “engineering mistake”: developing a product and hoping an audience will follow. Their original product focused more on making money through investing than the actual process of what goes on in investing and the educational aspect of it. Adarsh and his team learned from their mistakes, and conducted 40-50 customer interviews with their target audience to get an idea of what they needed to pinpoint for their new iteration. Their audience wanted to learn more about the process, and Growthfolio went forward and reiterated their design.

 

The current application is over 6 months in progress and is now in the product development stage. They hope to enter the app store early this year, and gather consumer feedback to keep iterating and creating a better product.

 

According to Adarsh, Weiss Tech House has provided his team access to experienced speakers who have helped them address the core set of problems that all entrepreneurs, no matter what industry, face. He also has connected with his mentor, who has been an invaluable source of advice for him.

 

 

 

To learn more about Growthfolio, watch the full interview here.

Founders of the Week: Michael Wong and Dayo Adewole

Dayo Adewole and Michael Wong, Co-Founders of InstaHub

In a world leaning towards eco-friendly trends, our actions and energy use are more important than ever. Something as simple as forgetting to turn the lights out can kill tons of energy and increase our bills, and many places have moved to automated light switches. However, the installation of these projects is typically 60-80% of the total cost. Michael Wong (W’18) and Dayo Adewole, a Bio-engineering Ph. D. student, have developed a solution: InstaHub.

 

Instahub is a snap on automation solution which aims to simplify light automation to make it more affordable to everyone. This product simply snaps on to light switches and turns the lights on when people enter and off when people leave, and starts to learn occupant’s habits to operate according to their needs. InstaHub requires no external connectivity or phone and is a simple, fast solution to our automation problem.

 

InstaHub is currently working on a large-scale pilot in Harnwell, Dubois, Stouffer, and Mayor to test the product through a partnership with Residential Services. They are also partnering with Wharton Operations and hoping to reach out to boutique hotels for pilots, and then eventually will begin selling the product.

 

Michael and Dayo have utilized many on-campus resources, such as Weiss Labs, VIP, and Youth Hack. They’ve been able to accumulate grants, funding, and support through these resources. Michael also has concentrations in OID, Finance, and Entrepreneurial Management, and he says his course-work has contributed to his success in his venture. They are also a Green Fund Project here on-campus.

 

 

Founder of the Week: Chris Hanson

Chris Hanson (SAS ’17), founder and CEO of Eager, Inc.

When we hear “Canvas” or “Blackboard” we automatically shiver in disgust. The bleak platform, the reminder of the depressing grades we have to face on its interface… none of it excites or motivates us. Luckily, Chris Hanson (SAS ’17), founder and CEO of Eager, Inc., is using his expertise in cognitive science to reimagine educational interfaces in a more engaging, gamified way.

 

Eager is an educational interface for secondary and higher-ed students that works with other platforms such as Canvas and Blackboard to display course data in a more user-friendly way and allows for students to access support networks. It aims to make academic life more engaging, such as by allowing students to set goals for grades and check their progress, or log in with their Facebook account to compete on “arbitrary, but influential” benchmarks. The goal is to help change student behavior in a more positive manner, and the platform is even testing an algorithm to predict student risk, allowing for both academic and mental preventative support by suggesting when students need to reach out to teachers, counselors, or parents.

 

Eager is currently demoing in secondary education, and is about to pilot at Penn and other higher-ed institutions. Hanson’s company was involved in several Penn incubators, and he believes Weiss Labs has been an invaluable resource. Hanson tells us that “being an entrepreneur can be a lonely job,” and Weiss Labs enables entrepreneurs to get to know each other and connect over a common challenge.

 

To learn more about Chris Hanson and Eager, Inc. check out the website here and the full interview (with a demo!) here.

Founder of the Week: Andrew Baltrus

Andrew Baltrus (SAS ’19),  founder of Ristretto

Everyone knows a college student can’t survive without their coffee. Andrew Baltrus, a junior in the College, aims to make coffee shops more efficient with his new software, Ristretto. Ristretto allows customers to mobile order and leave reviews to specialty coffee shops through a messenger bot. In addition, this software allows the companies to track popular drinks, frequent customers, and other useful statistics which can help the company grow and improve.

Ristretto was inspired by Andrew’s love of coffee and the industry, and his goal to make it both faster and easier to access better coffee than current large chains offer. Through Weiss Labs, he hopes to learn more about what other new start-ups at Penn are doing and get advice and mentorship from the Lab as well as other teams on campus.  Andrew likes that Weiss Labs focuses on a student perspective to start-ups, as students face specific challenges that other entrepreneurs don’t.  He’s also utilized Wharton Entrepreneurship as another invaluable resource for his software.

To find out more about Ristretto, watch the full interview here.

Here at the Weiss Tech House, we celebrate, support, and create innovators and thinkers all across Penn’s campus. In the spirit of our mission to advance technological entrepreneurship, we’ve started our new series: Founder of the Week. Each week, look forward to the new highlights, interviews, updates, and insights from Penn founders. If there’s anybody you’d like to nominate as a Founder of the Week, preferably Weiss Tech House member or alum, let us know here.

Founders of the Week: Sherry Chen and Ezaan Mangalji

The UCheck Founders, Ezaan and Sherry

How do we aim to make the world a better, more sustainable, and more effective place? Two entrepreneurs at Penn, who recently finished as a Weiss Labs have found one way: by striving to revolutionize how we shop at convenience stores, streamlining the process for greater consumer efficiency. Their startup, UCheck, is an app that allows consumers to scan items as they shop, and when they’re finished, they can purchase all their goods with one-click, confirm their receipt at the door, and leave, eliminating tedious lines.

UCheck is founded by Xiaoyi (Sherry) Chen (M&T ’19) and Ezaan Mangalji (W ’20 SEAS ’20). Sherry’s inspiration came her freshman year, when she waited in line for 10 minutes at Fresh Grocer for a pack of candy. She went on to develop a “smart shopping cart” for grocery stores, but after several design iterations, decided to focus on convenience stores.

UCheck has recently partnered with Harnwell Cafe to undergo initial testing. They are most looking forward to all the resources they can utilize from Weiss Labs, like legal advice and one-on-one mentorship. Ezaan said one of the greatest parts of Weiss Labs is the community, which provides plenty of support to their team and design.

To find out more about UCheck, watch the full interview here and check out their website here.

Here at the Weiss Tech House, we celebrate, support, and create innovators and thinkers all across Penn’s campus. In the spirit of our mission to advance technological entrepreneurship, we’ve started our new series: Founder of the Week. Each week, look forward to the new highlights, interviews, updates, and insights from Penn founders. If there’s anybody you’d like to nominate as a Founder of the Week, preferably Weiss Tech House member or alum, let us know here.