Meet the teams: Accelerate 2019

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Meet the teams: Accelerate 2019

We are incredibly excited to announce the teams who made it to the culminating event of Accelerate 2019. If you’re not yet following us on Instagram, make sure to do so — that’s where we’ll be announcing this year’s winners!

In alphabetical order:

  • AeroShield: AeroShield manufactures a super-insulating nano-glass material for use in energy efficient windows. AeroShield windows are up to 40% more insulating than traditional double-pane windows, but with only a 10-20% increase in cost. This brings state-of-the-art thermal comfort, durability, and energy savings into homes without the prohibitive price-tag.

  • Bandhu: Bandhu enables low wage workers to make more insightful migration decisions by offering choices of bundled housing and employment.

  • BidLogic: BidLogic is an AI-powered SaaS Platform for the aerospace & defense industry with a total addressable market of $500M/year. BidLogic applies data science to predict future sales opportunities for private companies while also providing a “readiness pulse” to the Defense Department to ensure military logistics levels are ready for any world event, including disaster response and humanitarian relief operations overseas.

  • Delta Band: Delta Band is a strength training wearable that automatically detects what exercise you’re doing, and counts your reps. By making workout tracking 50x faster, we help lifters stay motivated by visualizing their progress over time, and guide them towards success with personalized data-backed training plans. By optimizing workout generation and logging, Delta Band will be the first to expand the $24B fitness wearables market to include millions of eager lifters, trainers, and coaches.

  • DUO: DUO is building LatAm's next generation of B2B financial services for SMEs. We'll start by issuing a corporate card paired with a data analytics dashboard to empower new business owners with visibility and control of their spendings. Credit limits will be dynamic and tied to cash balances held by each client. DUO’s card will generate credit history, and have all the features wanted in a corporate card. The data collected will then allow DUO to offer the adequate financial products SMEs need to grow.

  • Elemen: Elemen provides effective & personalized skincare solutions for everyone who loves beauty. By integrating scientific skincare knowledge with state-of-the-art algorithms, we are building an AI system that can understand your own skin condition and concerns, design the most effective ingredients and formulate products that directly cater to your needs. Elemen will save you from the excessive efforts and money wastes for finding the right skincare and make your own beauty simpler than ever.

  • Encora (Pitch 2018 Audience Choice Award!): We are creating a wearable wristband that stops hand tremors and is autonomously adaptable to each user.

  • Hikma Health: Hikma Health was founded on the principle that every patient deserves personalized care, no matter where they are. We create customized data systems for healthcare providers to improve outcomes for millions of refugee patients. We started with the support of the MIT Media Lab Refugee Learning Accelerator, and are growing driven by our shared vision to empower our patients and physicians with Hikma – healing wisdom.

  • HINTS: Following the 2016 US presidential elections and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there has been an uproar of concern over the spread of fake news. Current industry solutions involving human-powered labeling and natural language processing (NLP) are slow, expensive, and inaccurate. HINTS, our company, offers a patent pending network propagation and analysis machine learning solution that is able to automatically halt the spread of fake news across any medium, including text, audio, and video.

  • Horagen: The development of autonomous vehicles can potentially save millions of lives, but is hampered by the lack of appropriate LiDAR sensors that can map the world around them. Horagen is building the next-generation LiDAR that is technologically superior to any sensor on the market or in development today. Through our patented technology, we will enable cars, robots, and drones to see the environment and usher in an autonomous future.

  • Loro, co: Based in Boston, MA, Loro, co is an early-stage startup that is developing a smart companion robot for a wheelchair user named “Loro.” Loro empowers its users with increased independence and connectedness by enhancing their vision, communication, and safety. Loro, co. was founded in 2018 by a diverse team of engineers, designer, and entrepreneurs, allowing us to create a holistic and user experience-focused product.

  • LifeBlocs: LifeBlocs endeavors to reinvent the donation value chain for bone marrow, blood, and organs globally by utilizing blockchain technology. In doing so, it aims to reduce the number of lives lost as a result of inefficiencies in the donation and matching processes. Moreover, LifeBlocs strives to increase the number of donations amongst the population.

  • Lucy Homecare: Lucy is a marketplace where seniors and their families can list their homecare needs and are matched with homecare providers by our proprietary scheduling algorithm. That means seniors have a simpler search process, better choices, and lower costs, while providers see higher wages, more flexibility, and better fitting clients.

  • MedMap: MedMap is a web based artificially intelligent tool for medical professionals designed to use research-backed statistical medical knowledge to support evidence-based clinical decision making. It is a software-as-a-service for medical residents, paid for by medical residencies as a yearly per-user subscription.

  • Mily.Care: Mily.Care will become the leading platform for immigrants to access healthcare solutions for their loved ones in their country of origin (as an entry point to the remittances market).

  • Novo Space (Pitch 2018 Grand Prize Winner!): Novo Space provides high performance electronics for the new space age. Using a modular ecosystem of electronics, Novo's products can give satellite manufactures 200x more processing power and save 50% on development time and 50% on total costs.

  • O2Map: O2Map develops clinical oxygen sensors to enable personalization of radiation therapy for cancer patients. Personalized radiation dose planning will improve patient outcomes and survival in populations that respond poorly to the current stand of care.

  • Painting with Data: Painting with Data is a collaborative, web-based spatial data visualization, and analysis platform suitable for all users. We disrupt the spatial analysis by allowing users to perform advanced data analysis by visually manipulating the map without the need to operate with a database. The software introduces a visual programming language and a data-marketplace. Our platform enables everyone to harness data to provide intelligence to decision-making without the need for specialized knowledge.

  • Poppins: Poppins is an online platform that provides parents with fast and easy access to search and book temporary child care at local licensed daycares.

  • Precavida (Pitch 2018!): Precavida is a digital matching platform that connects uninsured patients to healthcare providers with unfilled availability. Through our platform, patients can be triaged, compare doctors, and make affordable appointments as early as the same-day. Providers can fill unbooked appointments, making their private practices more profitable. Through this matching system, Precavida is able to decrease wait times from 1 month to less than 1 week, and increasing Doctors revenues by 20%.

  • Qtech: Long-lasting Qtech air filter as a replacement of HEPA. Simply switch to Qtech to save 50% or more.

  • Quantifai: Automatic data science for non-technical people. Instead of flooding data scientists with requests, Quantifai users can perform the most important data science tasks themselves — within seconds, code-free.

  • RiskBoard: RiskBoard is a digital tool that harnesses artificial intelligence and big data to identify and contextualize human rights and political risks across global supply chains and investments. It draws on social and public media to identify political and human rights incidences that may affect your organization's interests across geographies and provides complementary information to help you interpret the incidences.

  • StethX: StethX offers the first affordable digital stethoscope, allowing patients to record and share their heart and lung sounds from home. By putting a stethoscope in the home of every patient we enable the wave of telemedicine, providing a crucial diagnostic tool that gives every family better access to quality healthcare.

  • Swipe: Our mission is to expand financial inclusion to the credit invisible. The Swipe App records cashless transactions in real-time, and is a tool to preempt card fraud, manage money, and analyze aggregate behavioral spending patterns to glean insights about a credit invisible consumer's credit worthiness. The insight is called Swipe ID - a self-sovereign credit ID that a consumer can control, monetize, and privately share with FIs to enhance credit visibility.

  • TTT Pharmaceuticals: Multiple Myeloma is a deadly incurable cancer that afflicts over 200 thousand patients worldwide and has an expected 5 year survival rate under 50%. We have a novel pharmaceutical that has been shown in preclinical studies to be over 3-fold more effective than the leading Multiple Myeloma therapies.

  • Umbulizer: Umbulizer is developing a reliable, low-cost, and portable device that can provide continuous ventilation to patients in resource-limited settings.

  • Velaron (Pitch 2018!): Shrimp farming - a $45 B global industry - is challenged by poor environmental and social practices. Yields have fallen as diseases kill 40% of shrimp. Disease control is limited by the vastness of shrimp farms which cover hundreds of hectares and are hard to monitor. Velaron maps water quality across farms in real time. We plan to sell the data, analytics, and management system to farmers as a monthly app-service, helping them de-risk their operations and increase yields and disease resilience.

  • Viridis RS: Viridis RS enables smallholder farmers to increase their productivity through a comprehensive risk management system by monitoring the farm through aerial imagery and providing insurance protection and early warning of pest and diseases. With our technology, we will enable farmers to optimize the long-term health of their land and increase their yields and profits. With improved crop health, we want to promote poverty alleviation and reduce the negative environmental impacts of farming on a global scale.

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Looking back: Pitch 2018

As we get ready to announce the winners of Accelerate 2019, we wanted to take a look back at the first competition of this cycle and remember all of great teams that competed. You’ll notice some of the came back for Accelerate!

Pitch 2018 Grand Prize Winner: Novo Space

Audience Choice Award Winner: Animo

Finalists:

  • Agrilink

  • Animo

  • Bare Bear

  • Buddy

  • Chord

  • Cogentis Therapeutics

  • Iamus Technologies

  • Insolate Energy

  • Instacam, Inc.

  • LEAF Systems

  • Luvabloom

  • Novo Space

  • Precavida

  • Retired Talent

  • Riopto

  • Velaron

  • Viridis

  • Waters of Life

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Congratulate the winners of the Launch Finale: Infinite Cooling, Zilper Trenchless and Iterative Scopes

Infinite Cooling, a startup that developed a system at MIT to enable significant water savings in the process of cooling power generators, received the Robert P. Goldbderg Grand Prize at the MIT $100K Launch Finale. Its patent-pending technology uses electrical fields to recapture water that evaporated from the cooling towers of power plant. This water is then recycled back into the cooling system. Infinite Cooling's technology could decrease power plant water consumption by as much as 30 percent, saving millions of dollars to power plant managers every year.  The co-founders of Inifinite Cooling are Maher Damak and Karim Khalil, PhD candidates in the Varanasi Research group in MIT's department of Mechanical Engineering. Derek Warnick, COO, graduated from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2009 where he focused on sustainable energy and energy finance. The last co-founder,  Kripa Varanasi, also serving as Chairman, is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. 

Infinite Cooling, a startup that developed a system at MIT to enable significant water savings in the process of cooling power generators, received the Robert P. Goldbderg Grand Prize at the MIT $100K Launch Finale. Its patent-pending technology uses electrical fields to recapture water that evaporated from the cooling towers of power plant. This water is then recycled back into the cooling system. Infinite Cooling's technology could decrease power plant water consumption by as much as 30 percent, saving millions of dollars to power plant managers every year.

The co-founders of Inifinite Cooling are Maher Damak and Karim Khalil, PhD candidates in the Varanasi Research group in MIT's department of Mechanical Engineering. Derek Warnick, COO, graduated from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2009 where he focused on sustainable energy and energy finance. The last co-founder,  Kripa Varanasi, also serving as Chairman, is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. 

Zilper Trenchless won the Audience Choice award   Zilper Trenchless, co-founded by brothers Daniel and Roberto Zillante, received the $10K Audience Choice award for its technology that avoids the need to dig trenches for underground piping installation.

Zilper Trenchless won the Audience Choice award

Zilper Trenchless, co-founded by brothers Daniel and Roberto Zillante, received the $10K Audience Choice award for its technology that avoids the need to dig trenches for underground piping installation.

Iterative Scopes won the $10,000 Booz Allen Hamilton Analytics Prize for its detection and diagnostic tools that help gastroenterologists identify cancerous colorectal lesions.

Iterative Scopes won the $10,000 Booz Allen Hamilton Analytics Prize for its detection and diagnostic tools that help gastroenterologists identify cancerous colorectal lesions.

Steve Conine, co-founder and co-chairman of Wayfair, was the keynote speaker for this year's finale. Conine stressed that entrepreneurs need to value their customers more than they value their technologies. He recommended, too, the importance of creating a culture where people give honest feedback, which allows entrepreneurs to innovate faster. 

Steve Conine, co-founder and co-chairman of Wayfair, was the keynote speaker for this year's finale. Conine stressed that entrepreneurs need to value their customers more than they value their technologies. He recommended, too, the importance of creating a culture where people give honest feedback, which allows entrepreneurs to innovate faster. 

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Launch finalists announced!

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Join us in congratulating the eight amazing teams who will pitch on May 14 during the Launch finale! Discover their elevator pitches:

Crystal Sonic: Electronic devices are built atop high quality wafers with extremely flat surfaces. Wafer surface quality is critical to device performance. Today’s wafers are made by cutting ingots into thin slices with diamond saws. Mechanical wafer sawing is a jarringly primitive step in an otherwise precise, exacting, and high-tech manufacturing process. It is like practicing surgery with a chainsaw. This sawing process is expensive, time-consuming, and introduces undetectable saw damage to surfaces. Our technology uses sound to atomically cut wafers 10x cheaper and 20x faster than sawing.  Crystal Sonic will enable manufacturers to create better and more reliable devices at a substantially lower cost.

Leuko: We are developing the first non-invasive device for early identification of dangerously low level of white blood cells, leading to the hospitalization of 110K chemotherapy patients/year in the US, $2.7Bn costs and 7% mortality. Our device relies on optical imaging of nailfold microcirculation: a simple test to daily self-perform from home. This innovation will first enable physicians to personalize chemotherapy planning, improving efficacy and safety of treatments - often conservatively set at suboptimal frequency and dose to avoid infection. It could then benefit 10M immunocompromised US people; 4Bn with little or no access to testing for infection worldwide.

  Zilper Trenchless: Zilper Trenchless has developed innovative technology to create versatile and cost-effective equipment, rendering our trenchless technology the best option for infrastructure contractors. Our machines achieve significant reductions in execution time, costs and environmental impact.

STEMgem: STEMgem provides smart device toolkits that allow learners to create their own real, relevant and impactful technology. STEMgem is an Internet of Things device that is directly connected to an online programming environment to let young learners create a build-it-yourself wearable smart device. STEMgem's mission is to engage teenage girls in the STEM fields.

Strand Therapeutics: As a platform, gene therapy has long held the promise of expressing therapeutics proteins directly inside our own bodies. In previous generations, companies focused on DNA delivery without controlled gene expression. In more recent years, RNA therapeutics have emerged as safer, easier to deliver alternative gene delivery vectors. Strand Therapeutics exists at the intersection between synthetic biology and RNA therapeutics: the only company that has built the genetic programming language of RNA to precisely control the expression of RNA therapeutics and deliver truly revolutionary treatments.

360 Truck: Each year, trucking industry in ASEAN loses billions of dollars from trucks that are running back empty after dropping the cargo, bearing the costs of running two ways but making money from only one. This is called empty backhaul.

New Day: New Day, is a smart employment platform providing job-matching and professionalizing skills to entry-/mid-level (blue-collar and services) workers in Southeast Asia.  We are focusing on Southeast Asia (and Myanmar in particular) because it has the highest smartphone penetration and mobile internet usage in the world.

Infinite Cooling: Power plants are the largest user of water in the US, and most of this water is used for cooling. At MIT, we have developed a technology that uses electric fields to recover water from the evaporative losses of cooling towers so that the same water can be used again and again. The product offers an attractive 2-year payback to customers, and the market is $8B in the US and over $20B internationally. Our team comprises the inventors of the technology and we have strong technical and business skills.

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LAUNCH SEMI-FINALISTS ANNOUNCED!

Congratulate MIT $100K LAUNCH 2018 semi-finalists!

After two weeks of intense judging, we are pleased to announce the 35 semi-finalists of this year's LAUNCH competition! From Agriculture to Material Sciences, Tech to Design, BioTech to CleanTech, discover their elevator pitches.

AgTech

  • Arable -  Arable helps farmers optimize tilling practices, leading to
    more efficient and sustainable farming techniques.

BioTech

  • Iterative Scopes -  Iterative Scopes uses data analytics and advanced
    computing techniques to narrow health care disparities.
  • Bloomer Health Tech - Bloomer is revolutionizing cardiovascular
    disease management and prevention for women by combining
    medical-grade sensors, data analytics, health management and
    patient-physician empowerment via every day, ordinary clothing that
    collects extraordinary data.
  • Flow Suit - Flow Suit uses both electronic muscle stimulation and a
    passive brace in order to provide manual leg control to paraplegics,
    giving them mobility, independence, and self-sufficiency.
  • Mechanodontics - Mechanodontics is making a new type of braces
    for orthodontic treatment that reduces the overall treatment time by
    half, cut the number of visits to the clinician by 75%, and reduces
    overall pain while also increasing oral hygiene.
  • Karuna Health - Karuna is a personal advisor and assistant that
    leverages automation and custom-built patient experience tools for
    families with complex health needs.
  • DeepCure - DeepCure is developing a transformative AI technology to screen, generate, and optimize drug candidates thousands of times faster, cheaper, and more accurately than the current state-of-the-art, reversing the rapid decline in drug development effectiveness.
  • Orfactory - Orfactory designs and produces a handheld medical device that can detect and identify cancer cells in real-time to support neurosurgeons using 5-ALA during brain surgery, thereby increasing the survival rate and life expectancy of patients.
  • Leuko - Leuko is developing the first non-invasive device for early identification of dangerously low level of white blood cells that can enable physicians to personalize chemotherapy planning, improving efficacy and safety of treatments.
  • synXpro - synXpro utilizes symbiotic bacteria from the human microbiome as vehicles for more sustained and tissue-targeted delivery of therapeutic proteins.
  •  C16 Biosciences - C16 Biosciences use synthetic biology to brew palm oil from microbes, creating a cheaper, sustainable palm oil replacement that can capture value and protect the environment.
  • Strand Therapeutics - Strand Therapeutics has built the genetic programming language of RNA to precisely control the expression of RNA therapeutics and deliver truly revolutionary treatments.
  •  ConquerX - ConquerX is developing a pan-cancer test through a simple, customizable, accurate liquid biopsy test - the Metachip. Metachip is a unique multi-analyte platform able to simultaneously detect DNA, proteins, and microRNAs on the same sample.
  • E25Bio - E25Bio is providing the missing tool in the world's battle against infectious diseases: an inexpensive self-administered test strip with unprecedented accuracy coupled with data analytics to inform public response.
  • Aavia - Aavia invented a patent-pending IoT device for the Birth Control Pill blister pack. The user simply stores her usual blister pack in the device and it recognizes if she hasn't taken her Pill by her daily set time and sends customizable reminders to her phone until she actually takes it. This will keep the 10M US women who take the Birth Control Pill from missing a dose again, reducing stress and the associated 1M annual unintended pregnancies.
  • X-COR Therapeutics - X-COR CO2 removal cartridges are a minimally invasive, procedurally simple, safer and cheaper CO2 removal device that enables outpatient treatment of respiratory failure at low blood flows like dialysis.

Tech/Platforms

  • OZÉ - Founded by Meghan McCormick, OZÉ is the business insights engine in the pocket of every African entrepreneur. It is a mobile app that aggregates and analyzes transaction data to push context-specific recommendations to business owners to improve their operations.
  • Tactile - Tactile is the first dedicated text-to-Braille converter that aims to increase information accessibility for the visually impaired community. With Tactile, users can scan any printed text and read the resulting Braille on demand.
  •  360TRUCK - 360TRUCK is an online logistics marketplace that ensure that trucks drive with a full shipment both ways in ASEAN with a unique matching algorithm and predictive analytics.
  • Deepbench - Deepbench unlocks the world's knowledge by connecting those who have expert insights with those who need them via an AI powered technology platform.

CleanTech

  • Infinite cooling - Infinite Cooling has developed a technology that uses electric fields to recover water from the evaporative losses of cooling towers so that the same water can be used again and again.

Material Tech

  • Crystal Sonic - Crystal Sonic uses sound to atomically cut wafers 10x cheaper and 20x faster than the currently used method of sawing. Crystal Sonic will enable manufacturers to create better and more reliable devices at a substantially lower cost.
  • TerraVation - TerraVation uses cost-effective polymer technology to develop highly durable and waterproofed soil roads, thereby building reliable and long lasting means of rural connectivity.

EdTech

  • T-var EdTech - The Read Read is a patent pending physical device that allows blind students to independently learn phonics and braille and gain the early literacy that is prerequisite to academic and professional success.
  • STEMgem - STEMgem is an Internet of Things device that is directly connected to an online programming environment to let young learners create a build-it-yourself wearable smart device. STEMgem's mission is to engage teenage girls in the STEM fields.

FinTech

  • Zippi - Zippi helps the 70 million Brazilians have difficulty getting credit because they lack the necessary documentation by using cell phone data and behavioral tests to measure default risk in novel ways, providing loans that are 4-5x cheaper than competitors.
  • Context - Context is a crowdsourced Bloomberg for emerging economies, using predictions from locals to forecast asset prices for investors, governments and industry.
  • Waffle - Waffle leverages data science capabilities and a proprietary risk model to turn the insurance model upside down by insuring you through one policy, providing cheaper, comprehensive protection that places the customer at the center of the proposition.
  • Coconut - Coconut allows consumers holding any cryptocurrency to make direct purchases everywhere: at real-world merchants, online retailers, and across blockchains. Consumers choose any cryptocurrency to pay with, and businesses have the option to receive payment in fiat currency with no volatility.
  • Kivio - Kivio is leveraging Blockchain-based solutions to reengineer the ocean-freight contracting process for one of the biggest tanker ship-owning companies. Their products will make the industry more efficient, saving cost and time.

Design

  • Anantara - Anantara addresses the dual challenges of forest degradation and limited economic opportunities in the Western Ghats in India by helping indigenous forest communities create luxury designer furniture from a rapidly invasive plant (Lantana Camara).

Engineering

  • Zilper Trenchless - Zilper Trenchless has developed innovative technology to create versatile and cost-effective equipment, rendering their trenchless technology the best option for infrastructure contractors.
  • AirWorks - AirWorks makes aerial data accessible and useful to decision-makers in the built environment. We provide automated analytics such as site plans and building models through AI that allow developers and engineers to yield time and cost efficiencies as well as to identify and eliminate build errors.
  • New Day - New Day is a smart employment platform providing job-matching and professionalizing skills to entry-/mid-level (blue-collar and services) workers in Southeast Asia. We are focusing on Southeast Asia (and Myanmar in particular) because it has the highest smartphone penetration and mobile internet usage in the world.”.

2018 MIT100K ACCELERATE WINNERS!

MIT100K are proud to announce the winners of the 100K Accelerate finals! Huge congratulations go to OZÉ, who won the Daniel M. Lewin Accelerate Prize, supported by Akamai. A big mention also goes to Okoa, who captured audience hearts and won the coveted audience choice award.

We would like to thank all our sponsors and all those who supported and attended. Stay tuned for details on our third and biggest competition, Launch, coming up in May!

MIT 100K 2018 Accelerate Competition Finalists!

FINALISTS

  • ARABLE
  • D3 DIAGNOSTICS
  • ITERATIVE SCOPES
  • LOOP
  • OKOA
  • OZÉ
  • SONIC VISION
  • UMBULIZER
 
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Arable

Arable helps farmers optimize tilling practices, leading to more efficient and sustainable farming techniques.

Team members: Matt Rosen, Guillaume Defrance de Tersant

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

To keep pace with the rise in global population, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that farms will need to increase crop yields by 70% over the next 35 years. To do this, we need to take a holistic view of crop yields, and this starts by taking a deep look at soil, the humble media in which the majority of the world’s food is grown. For farmers to get the most out of their arable land, high resolution data and analytics are needed on soil health, mapped at the field scale. These soil health maps, along with recommendations, allow farmers to optimize field management practices such as tilling and fertilizer application, reducing costs while simultaneously increasing yields. Soil compaction, the main impetus for using tilling equipment, contributes to an estimated 10-15% loss in annual US crop yields, with an associated monetary loss of $45B. Similarly, inadequate use of fertilizer contributes to 15-20% yield loss with an associated monetary loss of $65B. Improving efficiency starts with understanding and mapping relevant soil health properties across a field, however, current measurement techniques are slow and labor intensive, making high-resolution measurement impractical across large fields.

Tell us a bit about your founder story.

 We have known each other for over a year and a half now, after meeting during a hike to the top of Mount Washington with friends from our Integrated Design & Management program (IDM) at MIT. Many of Guillaume’s family members are growers in the southwest of France, who provided him with first-hand insights into how complex it is to fully leverage the soil to grow better food in larger quantities. Matt had a natural draw to agricultural projects after his experience at a global development R&D lab. Together, we uncovered that there was great potential in solving one of agriculture’s biggest challenges, and set out to find a solution. After assessing promising technologies and validating our approach with experts, we designed a solution and tested it in the field. Although we are conscious of the intense competition in this space, we feel well positioned to build a strong company around this opportunity. We are leveraging connections with leading precision agriculture experts, as well as a collaboration with technology experts from Lincoln Laboratories to develop our product.

What inspired you to create this company?

 At the early stages of this project, we talked with a number of people in the agriculture field who highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities around soil health. There are a number of startups working on collecting above ground data, but there seemed to be very rich opportunity space looking below, in the soil, so that is where we are focusing.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced thus far?

 After several months of dedicated research, planning and design, we confidently naively decided to test our technology on a farm in southern Massachusetts. It was supposed to be a crisp, efficient morning and we would be back in Cambridge by the afternoon. Little did we know that the temperature would be in the low twenties, causing our sensors to malfunction, and that we would end up walking an eight-acre farm by night, guided by the car’s lights. Our grand plans to map out entire fields by midday turned into a few acres worth of data. With money lost and frozen feet, we swore to never do that again. 

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs in the same position?

 We would repeat the same advice we heard from a CEO two weeks ago: “If you think that your first prototype looks good, you’ve waited too long.”

 
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D3 Diagnostics

D3 Diagnostics provides holographic imaging technology in resource-limited settings.

Team members: Hyungsoon Im, Ismail Degani

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

D3 is trying to solve the problem of early-stage cancer detection. Existing gold-standard tests for malignancies such as lymphoma and breast cancer are far too expensive to be administered at scale, especially in resource-limited settings such as Africa. The ability to diagnose cancer early-on and at low cost will lead to transformational improvements in the clinical outcomes of cancer patients worldwide.

Tell us a bit about your founder story.

D3 grew out of research at MGH’s Center for Systems Biology, in the joint labs of Drs. Hakho Lee and Ralph Weissleder. Our team has been working together since 2015 to deploy and commercialize D3’s groundbreaking approach to cancer diagnosis. Our technology is a unique combination of computational optics and single-cell level molecular detection. It’s an approach that could only have emerged from a collaboration between an engineering university and a research hospital with deep clinical expertise in cancer pathology. Our team is a passionate mix of research scientists and biomedical entrepreneurs that share a common vision and are excited to tackle it together. With complementary experience in assay development, device fabrication, and computational methods, we are exceeding well-qualified to execute our vision.

What inspired you to create this company?

Cancer is a dire and growing problem that needs to be attacked from many angles. Our low-cost, point-of-care approach to early detection was recognized by the NIH as a game-changing weapon in this fight. Once a proof of concept was in place, the need for a company to commercialize and deploy it became plainly obvious.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced thus far?

The biggest challenge thus far has been in the planning and execution of a 200-patient clinical trial in Botswana. This requires complex coordination between clinicians, pathologists, biochemists, and device experts at MGH and our partner sites in Botswana. 

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs in the same position?

“Be stubborn about your vision but flexible about its execution” - Jeff Bezos

We overhauled our hardware, biochemistry, and computational approaches many times, but have remained fixated on our clinical goals. This has really helped us to deal with the inevitable setbacks involved in solving a very difficult problem.

 

 
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Iterative Scopes

Iterative Scopes uses data analytics and advanced computing techniques to narrow health care disparities.

Team members: Dr. Jonathan Ng, Karina Akib, Dominique Hall, Christian Ulstrup, Ellen Schippert

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

Colorectal cancer is the second highest cause of cancer related deaths in the world. 4.5% of all people will have some form of colorectal cancer in their lifetime. Colonoscopy is the primary tool used to screen for cancer in this domain; however, recent studies indicate that false negative rates (i.e. missed lesions) are as high as 25%.These issues are further magnified in resource-poor countries that suffer from inadequate access to diagnostic hardware and robust medical education systems. Our mission is to reduce the disparity in healthcare outcomes in both the United States and developing markets.

Tell us a bit about your founder story.

All of 5 months! We met at school and were lucky to find one another in MIT Sloan’s uniquely collaborative and diverse environment. We met at different times but the common theme across each meeting was that each one of us saw an impact beyond ourselves and wanted to work together.

What inspired you to create this company?

Before Sloan, while I (Jon) was working at the Ministry of Health in Singapore, I realised that policymakers and managers had difficulty understanding physicians’ performance reporting and questioned the reliability of the data which was being presented to us. It was one of the rare frustrating times that we weren’t able to work around.When I arrived at MIT, I realised the kind of resources and possibilities that the school and Boston ecosystem presented. Four months later, here we are.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced thus far?

We are trying to do good for patients and society as a whole by detecting cancer early and improving long-term healthcare outcomes; however, we have come to realize that in the US, insurers are often incentivised by near term ROI due to high patient churn. We are looking for insurers in the United States who are similarly aligned to long term value and would love to have a conversation.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs in the same position?

If you pursue your beliefs with the right attitude and intentions, things have a way of working themselves out. Just trust in yourself.

 
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Loop

Loop offers low-cost wheelchair seat cushions (made from bike inner tubes) to prevent pressure sores.

Team members:

Sarah Tress

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

The World Health Organization cites that the average life expectancy for people with spinal cord injuries in many low to middle income countries is as low as one year. Even worse, the primary cause for death is not the spinal cord injury itself, but preventable pressure sores. Wheelchair seat cushions are essential to prevent life-threatening pressure sores. Unfortunately, many users receive poor quality cushions or have no cushions at all. With an estimated 200 million wheelchair users in developing countries worldwide, there is a large amount of the global population whose lives are at risk because existing technology is inaccessible. Loop is trying to make high quality seat cushions available to all wheelchair users in developing countries.

Tell us a bit about your founder story.

I'm a junior studying Mechanical Engineering at MIT and have been trying to solve problems facing the developing world since I left the US for the first time during my freshman summer to travel to India. While I'm committed to continue to use my knowledge of mechanical engineering and design to help to solve the problems facing developing countries, I'm particularly invested in this particular problem since I traveled to Indonesia and Vietnam over this past summer to interview wheelchair users and visit NGOs that distribute wheelchairs. From this, I have an understanding of the problem one could only get by seeing and interacting with the problem firsthand. I know that there is a real need for this technology. 

What inspired you to create this company?

Loop originated from my desire to not follow the traditional path of pursuing an internship for the summer after my sophomore year. I wanted to do something over the summer where I felt I was really going to make an impact. This led me to get in touch with an NGO in Indonesia that described a few of the possible technologies they saw could make a big impact on their users, but didn't exist yet. The idea of an inflatable wheelchair seat cushion spoke to me and I just decided to tackle it.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced thus far?

Trying to turn bike inner tubes into something they don't want to be. Unsurprisingly, bike inner tubes don't naturally function too well as a life saving device, so it has required a lot of creativity and understanding of the best seat cushions to get them to work as desired. 

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs in the same position?

 Don't let yourself tell yourself “no”. Throughout this whole process of establishing Loop, I was consistently the only person telling myself I couldn't do it. For young entrepreneurs, being conscious of your lack of experience and knowledge compared to others is very useful to realize, but really dangerous to allow to define your capabilities. Starting your own project or company will be a learning process for anybody; the difference is that the less experience you have, the steeper the learning curve will be. So while of course you should be reasonable, don't let anybody, and most importantly don't let yourself, tell you that you can't do it! Dive headfirst into the problem and you'll see how much you can discover about the world and yourself.

 
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Okoa

 Okoa uses an attachment that can turn any motorcycle into an ambulance, helping to close the gap in medical emergency transportation in developing countries.

Team members: Eva Boal, Emily Young, Sade Nabahe, Jimmie Harris

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

In Tanzania and other developing countries, rural communities are located far from healthcare facilities, making it difficult to get to medical attention in an emergency. Few transportation options are available due poor road conditions and lack of financial resources, forcing people to choose between traveling by motorcycle, bicycle or foot. These methods are slow, painful, and sometimes life-threatening for patients in a medical emergency, and many choose not to go. This leads to preventable deaths, many of which are from dangerous roadside births with no midwife, or stillborn births due to shaken baby syndrome. Additionally, poor communication between drivers and villagers increase the wait time for treatment, putting patients at risk of further complications or death. There are estimates of 1 billion people facing these realities, many of them pregnant women. The World Health Organization reports that 5,000 women and over 52,000 infants from low resource settings died in 2015 from preventable complications in Tanzania alone. While this statistic is specific to women in Tanzania, it reveals a common problem that is present across the country and other developing countries regarding safe, affordable transportation options in rural areas.

Tell us a bit about your founder story.

Emily Young and Sade Nabahe co-founded The Okoa Project when The Olive Branch for Children (TOBFC) came to MIT’s D-Lab looking for a way to safely and comfortably transport patients to existing healthcare facilities. They worked on it for almost a year before visiting Tanzania, seeing the lives their project could save. Since then, they have expanded the team to include two other MIT students, Eva Boal and Jimmie Harris, and other Tanzanians through TOBFC. With 4 MIT semesters, 3 prototypes and 3 trips to Tanzania, the team has learned to work together to make this ambulance a reality. Our diverse backgrounds and interests are key to the future of the product, and we rely on practical and local experiences. Sade (MIT ‘17) specializes in project management through previous D-Lab and MISTI development projects, Jimmie Harris (MIT ‘17) has experience in race car design, Emily (MIT ‘18)  has an extensive design and fabrication background through consumer product internships and working as a 2.007 lab assistant, and Eva (MIT ‘18), has business development and financing experiences from working on business development for startups, internships and fundraising over $185K+ for Camp Kesem. Our amazing partners at TOBFC have over 15 years of experience in the space and communities we are hoping to impact. We all come from different backgrounds but know how to and want to work together to fulfill Okoa’s potential.

What inspired you to create this company?

We were inspired to start this project when TOBFC came to D-Lab, but the ‘aha!’ moment was when we went to Tanzania the following January. We saw the problem first hand by talking with community members and healthcare workers, and realized how critically these areas needed our product. From that point we have been extremely invested in pursuing this solution and making our motorcycle ambulance a reality.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced thus far?

The biggest challenge that we have faced so far is working in Boston while our main prototype and testing areas are in Tanzania. We have been able to design another counterpart prototype in Boston and work on design iterations and testing procedure validation, but it is not the same as being in Tanzania. We are really looking forward to June when we graduate and can work full time on this, and September, when three of our team members will be moving to Tanzania.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs in the same position?

For other aspiring entrepreneurs, I would say: be willing to ask for help in areas that you are not an expert, and use the MIT network. There are brilliant advisors who would love to offer both advice and tools to further prototype and to help with business development. All you have to do is ask!

 
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OZÉ

OZÉ is a mobile app that aggregates and analyzes transaction data to push context-specific recommendations to business owners.

Team members:

Meghan McCormick, Aly Sawadogo, Rhoda Korle, Tayo Eurubo, Hannah Wei

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

If small business owners in emerging markets are keeping financial records, they are doing so in paper ledgers. They end up with pages of handwritten entries but struggle to turn this data into insights into actions that drive profits. Furthermore, you can’t show up at a bank with a stack of notebooks and get a loan. This is why more small businesses fail, and do not grow. In fact, 77% of small businesses in emerging markets are classified as non-employers, which means that they do not pay a single salary. We need to create more than 100 million new jobs in Africa over the next ten years, and I think the only way we can achieve that is if we empower small businesses to grow. 

How long has the team known each other and how did you meet?

I founded Guinea’s first business accelerator while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. My team and I were struggling to track the performance of our portfolio companies in real-time, and so we spent most of our manpower and mind power fixing catastrophic errors with our entrepreneurs rather than preventing them from occurring in the first place. We used a human-centered design process at a founder’s retreat for this accelerator and came up with the core concept of what would eventually evolve into OZÉ. Realizing that OZÉ couldn’t thrive with our current team’s capabilities and non-profit structure, we spun it out and recruited a team. 

What makes our team unique is that we combine a global perspective and experience in developing new concepts with a deep understanding of how small businesses in West Africa work. We bridge the divide between those two worlds with empathy and curiosity.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced thus far?

I’m not a software developer so the biggest challenge has been turning this idea into reality, but recently we’ve really built up the tech side of our operation and now we are rolling. 

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs in the same position?

Get as close to your users as possible. We actually co-create a lot of our functions and features with our users, and this means that instead of brining an American solution to small businesses in Ghana, I bring a process that lets users define their own solution. 

 
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Sonic Vision

Sonic Vision facilitates safer, more cost-effective invasive epidurals.  

Team members: Siddharth Trehan, Alex Benjamin, Dr. Albert Kwon, Jay Patel, Elaheh Ahmadi

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

A large number of interventional procedures are performed in a ‘blind’ fashion; doctors have to rely on experience, intuition and mental imagery to guide their needles or instruments to specific locations within the patient’s body. This lack of visual feedback results in inefficiencies, high rate of first attempt failures, complications, and potential lawsuits, all of which burden the patient and doctors alike.

Tell us a bit about your founder story.

Alex and Sid, two graduate students from MIT, bonded over their interest in bringing cutting-edge robotics technology to the healthcare industry. They became roommates, prototyping out of their apartment, and the team has grown ever since. It now spans expertise in ultrasound technology, robotics, anaesthesiology, medical image vision, and machine learning. They have leveraged their connections with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, which have provided them with valuable feedback within the fields of anaesthesiology, critical care, and pain medicine.

What inspired you to create this company?

Sonic Vision was originally conceived of as a solution to a manufacturing and product repair problem, where augmented reality is already being used to assist workers. After Albert, an anaesthesiologist, joined the team, we realized its potential in image-guided procedures. Our intuition about its impact was confirmed after we witnessed a few live epidurals and how much discomfort it was causing patients, mostly women in labor. It became clear to us that Sonic Vision is a technology with the potential to innovate in many different industries. 

What's the biggest challenge you've faced thus far?

Our product comes with a lot of technical challenges, and developing good 3D visualizations has been the most challenging aspect so far. If the rendering is off by a even centimeter it can mislead the doctor, and so we have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about how to acquire ultrasound slices as a volume, display it in an intuitive manner, and project it onto the patient’s body.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs in the same position?

Find a real market need and a product that you love working on and can’t stop thinking about!

 
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Umbulizer

Umbulizer provides a low-cost portable device that provides continuous ventilation to patients in resource-limited health care settings.

Team members: Shaheer Piracha, Sanchay Gupta, Hamza Khan, Moiz Imam, Wasay Anwer

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

There is a shortage of ventilators in resource limited countries like Pakistan. As a result, caregivers often Ambu bag the patient for several hours until a ventilator opens up, or the patient dies.

Tell us a bit about your founder story. 

Our team has either experienced this pressing issue in Pakistan first hand or worked in similar resource-limited settings around the world. We all come from various academic backgrounds that include engineering, medicine and entrepreneurship, but what unites us is our passion to address this unmet need. The team has now been working together for several months with the goal to reduce preventable deaths caused by ventilator shortage in resource limited settings. 

What inspired you to create this company?

I (Shaheer) am a biomedical engineer with experience working at BMC and CVS Health. I often visit Pakistan, where my family lives. During a recent visit, a loved one was admitted to a hospital for respiratory distress. Due to a critical shortage of mechanical ventilators and staff, my family was given a bag valve mask and asked to manually ventilate the two-year old child. My family members frantically took turns delivering life-sustaining breaths for three nights until he eventually passed away. Since then, the team and I have made this project our mission.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced thus far?

Backing up your story. When you are working on a project in a low resource setting there is often not a lot of clinical data or information available online to validate your idea. We took it as an opportunity to conduct on-the-ground research, build relationships and get closer to our customers!

What's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring entrepreneurs in the same position?

You're solving a critical healthcare problem that will save lives and bring smiles back to families’ faces. Don't get distracted by setbacks. Remain steadfast and always keep your head held high. Perseverance commands success.