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.

Founders of the Week: Philip Williams, Naveen Jain, and Jun Jeon

Naveen Jain (left), Philip Williams (center), Jun Jeon (right)

This week’s founders are Philip Williams (MD’20), Naveen Jain (MD/PhD’24), and Jun Jeon (MD’20) of Spectrum Scores . Spectrum Scores is a website and pending mobile application that connects LGBTQ+ patients with LGBTQ+ knowledge-friendly, competent health care providers. The website allows users to score healthcare providers and professionals with LGBTQ+ metrics, developed with with help from the University of Pennsylvania, and leave subjective reviews of their patient-doctor interactions.  Spectrum Scores aims to find existing healthcare providers that can fill the needs of the LGBTQ+ community and is currently operational in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, and Chicago.

Philip and Jun credits the HealthX Labs , a student accelerator of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, with providing the right advisors and initial seed funding for their product. Philip comments that “a big part of the help that Penn has been able to provide is healthcare advisory, [especially] since Penn is a leader in LGBTQ+ health”. In the coming months, Spectrum Scores is focusing on mobile applications in order to leverage the mobile market and increase their target audience.

To find out more about Spectrum Scores, 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.

 

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.”