Last week, 27 startup companies, developed by Tech students, assembled in the Klaus Atrium for Product Day, an opportunity to display their innovative ideas to the public. The companies represent the Startup Launch component of Georgia Tech’s Create-X program, designed to promote entrepreneurial confidence in students.
This year, Startup Launch accepted 30 teams from the program after receiving 185 applications. After completing the application and interview process, the selected teams spend three months during the summer developing their ideas, and are provided with $20,000 in funds, legal counsel and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs. Then, they share those ideas with the public at Product Day.
“It’s a great opportunity for the startups to show people their products – or where they’re headed – and it also acts as a good interim milestone leading up to Demo Day,” Create-X director Raghupathy Sivakumar explained. This year, the event enabled startup teams to showcase their products to over 400 curious visitors.
The products span many fields of interest: for example, Mandala Soundworks developed a product that records a guitar jam session and automatically generates the tablature; ShoutHealth is a platform designed to redirect non-acute patients from emergency rooms to community clinics; and iSimuVR is the first virtual reality arcade in the state of Georgia. These are just a few of the startups represented at Product Day, and many are already making a difference in the community.
One such example is StemPower, a program designed to encourage young girls to remain interested in STEM fields. “Once girls reach middle and high school, their interest in STEM drops tremendously. Our program is for fourth and fifth grade girls – right before they get into middle school,” said Kenzy Mina, third-year BME and cofounder of StemPower.
The company has been partnering with the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta for the past three semesters to encourage girls to pursue STEM fields; they are mentored by female Georgia Tech students and participate in activities, such as building their own circuits. So far, StemPower has impacted over 150 girls.
Specware is another startup hoping to make a positive impact. Their team created a watch that uses infrared lights to calculate an individual’s BAC. Cofounder and fourth-year EE Alexander Saad- Falcon explained how his team was encouraged by a study with GTPD that compared a Breathalyzer to their device: “We were finding a correlation of about 80- 90 percent. Using that, we applied to Create-X, went in for the interview, told them about the study, and pretty much immediately, we saw they were interested, because they saw we had something viable.”
In addition to infrared light technology, Specware watches are also equipped for pulse oximetry, and the team hopes to further enhance their product in the future.
“We’re also thinking about calculating things like blood glucose – something that will be useful for people who are diabetic,” Saad-Falcon said.
Many of the startups are constantly considering the future of their companies and adapting to the demands of the market. Tanya Sharma, a second-year CS major, believes in the importance of flexibility when developing an idea.
“Pivoting is always very important. You might have this one idea, but sometimes the customers don’t really care about a certain product. The most important thing about a successful startup is being able to change your mind,” said Sharma, cofounder of styling app LifeStyle.
Startup Launch teams receive professional feedback and advice as they try to improve their products; in addition to mentorship, teams are provided with legal counsel that is vital to navigating the business world. Pranov Duggasani, third-year CS and cofounder of subscription box platform Boxfynder, explained: “A lot of legal issues we face are just general company-type issues. What type of company should we become? How do we pay our taxes? Stuff that as students, we wouldn’t think to ask.”
In addition to helping teams learn about the legal aspects of a company, Startup Launch also provides assurance to students with new ideas. “The legal resources and the funds have been really helpful in giving us that leg up and the confidence to know that some entity other than yourself is rooting for you,” Duggasani said.
While Product Day is an opportunity for startups to showcase their progress, it is also important to note that each company began simply as an idea. Director Sivakumar encourages those interested in Startup Launch to be willing to share their ideas, even if they are not yet fully formed.
“A lot of the time, students think, ‘I have an idea, but I’ve not made much progress in terms of building the product, and so I’m not going to apply,’ and we don’t want students to think like that, because there is ample opportunity within the program to develop their idea and to build prototypes based on their idea. As long as they have an idea and they are a Georgia Tech student, they should consider applying,” Sivakumar said.
Startup Launch teams will continue to develop their products and pitch them at Demo Day on August 30th at the Fox Theatre. For more information about Create-X and its programs, visit www.create-x.gatech.