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.

Founder of the Week: Ronald Angsiy

Here at 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 members or alum, let us know here.

This week’s founder is Ronald Angsiy, co-founder of InnaMed, Inc. and Managing Director of Mikhail Capital. InnaMed is a portable blood testing device that can be used at home and is tailored to the individual user to lessen the need of returning doctor’s visits and to increase transparency in data. Ronald met his co-founder at a Weiss Tech House event, and has since then been funded and supported by multiple resources across Penn’s campus. InnaMed won the Y-Combinator Class of Winter 2017 and is a NASA iTech National Award Winner.

Ronald attributes some of his success to several mentors, including the founder of Weiss Labs, Guthrie Gintzler, and his boss at the IBM Think Tank he worked at. “You really need people to believe in you,” Ronald says, and he believes he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support he gained from the community here on-campus.

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

 

BioBots is Now Allevi

BioBots, a Weiss Tech House Innovation Fund start-up producing 3-D bioprinters that have revolutionized labs across the U.S., has recently changed its name to Allevi.

Ricky Solorzano, CEO of BioBots, says Allevi was “inspired by our community of users who work every day to make living solutions for humanity’s most important problems- to cure disease, to alleviate suffering, to build with life.” Allevi’s mission is to change the course of medicine for generations to come, and to influence the world with their ingenious product.

Allevi also recently launched a new software that aims to standardize experimental methodology and workflow in the field biofabrication. This new software aims to make bioprinting easier and more accessible. The new software can be found here.

M&T alumnus Alan Cook stars on Shark Tank

Alan Cook on Shark Tank November 5th

Penn is notorious for creating generations of innovators and entrepreneurs that lead the world in their respective fields. Innovation drives Penn students to go above and beyond, and this year’s theme encompasses that. In honor of the Year of Innovation, Weiss Tech House is proud to highlight Penn alum Alan Cook, a mentor to Weiss Tech House who had the extraordinary opportunity to be on Shark Tank this past Sunday.

Alan Cook, who graduated as part of the M&T program in 1995 with a B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering and a B.S. in Finance and Management, has been a part of multiple entrepreneurial adventures, including Lucky Litter, LLC, which oversaw the development of the ScoopFree automated self-cleaning litter system. In 2012, he sold the company. In addition, Alan co-founded Belle-V LLC with Wharton’s Vice Dean of Innovation, Dr. Karl Ulrich, which produces high-end ice cream scoops.

Alan’s most recent endeavor is called BrilliantPad, the world’s first self-cleaning indoor dog potty. He worked with a Penn Vet School alum, Brett Shorenstein, to develop this product, which has sold over $100,000 on Indiegogo this year and is now available for purchase on Amazon. Despite facing several engineering and logistics problems with his product, he persisted, telling us that “Innovation doesn’t often happen in one magic moment. It is a process of designing, building, testing and iterating over and over many times.” On Sunday, November 5th, an episode of  Shark Tank was aired where Alan had the incredible opportunity to pitch his new product. “Filming Shark Tank was one of life’s most memorable moments and it was totally unreal,” said Alan.

Budding Penn entrepreneurs should follow in the footsteps of Alan, who, during his time at Penn, took “huge advantage of the Penn and Wharton Networks.” Dr. Karl Ulrich is his partner of nearly two decades, and has been instrumental in leading him to “countless people” who have impacted his journey. For all those looking to create and innovate, Alan says “If you think it, you can do it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”