After several semesters of hard work and dedication, seven UTSA seniors are now poised to start a company around an exciting new medical device after winning UTSA’s biannual $100K Student Technology Venture Competition. Mediflow’s device, called the Deep Breath Easy Apnea Machine or D.R.E.A.M. for short, is a small, mobile mask created to treat sleep apnea.
“It feels phenomenal to win,” UTSA business senior Spenser Reynolds said. “It took countless hours of work. I don’t think there’s a member of our team that wasn’t thinking about it went they went to bed or when they got up in the morning. We were running this like it was a real business and doing everything we could.”
While many sleep apnea machines require a hose connected to a large stationary power supply, effectively tying users to their bed, the D.R.E.A.M. is connected to a small battery that can be attached to the arm or waist – giving the user freedom of movement if they need to get up in the night and preventing the device from rubbing a users face due to the tension of the hose.
Taking first place at the competition has earned the students $7,000 in cash, office space for a year at Geekdom in downtown San Antonio, a membership in the incubator of their choice, and $36,000 worth of legal, marketing, and other services.
Mediflow was created by engineering seniors Joseph Barrios, Eluid Gutierrez, Aaron Mosqueda, and Maxim Perkins, who created the device; and business seniors Spenser Reynolds, Kaleigh Simms, and Nancy Perdicho, who created the startup’s business model and investor pitch.
The $100K Student Technology Venture Competition was one of two main events on Tuesday during the UTSA’s second annual Tech Symposium. Hosted by the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship, or CITE, the competition pairs up a team of UTSA business seniors with a team of engineering seniors working on their Capstone Project – a device that represents the culmination of their engineering education at UTSA.
The students must work together to create a viable business plan around the engineered prototype device which includes market research and feedback, manufacturing cost prediction, long term profit planning, marketing strategies, and potential exit strategies – or opportunities to sell the company or idea for a profit.
Tuesday afternoon, ten different companies gave back-to-back presentations in tough panel of Judges, and then fielded questions after each presentation.
Mediflow went last, and received almost completely positive remarks from the judges. Now looking to the future, the company will begin to organize itself internally – filing articles of incorporation and looking for funding to get their company off the ground.
“Our next step’s going to be to apply for as much grant money as possible and try to get some funding to get this thing out of the gate. Then we are going to have to start seeking investors,” Reynolds said.
The second and third place teams in the competition received some prize money as well. Velox Medical, which placed second, will receive a combined $31,000 in cash and services and will also have the opportunity to enter a tech incubator. The company’s device, called the Oclus, is a medical device designed to treat “wide neck” brain aneurysms, or blood clots in the brain, which are difficult to treat with current surgeries and often result in the need for repeated endovascular surgeries and additional complications.
Third Place went to Vitalassure IV, which will receive $23,000 in cash and services. This team created a sensor that monitors the flow of an IV connected to the bloodstream. Patients wear a wireless sensor on the arm that broadcasts to a receiver on the IV stand. If the sensor detects a change in the IV flow, which could mean a problem with the needle, it alerts the medical staff so they can disconnect the IV.
While only three teams could place in the competition, competition judge and T3DC Investor Randall Goldsmith told the students afterward that they where the best crop of companies coming out of the CITE competition yet and they all had commercial potential.
“The portfolio was stellar. All ten candidates, all ten companies, certainly have commercial potential,” Goldsmith said. “Some of the striking things that I saw, that are different, there is a much clearer understanding today than there was five years ago in terms of what investors look for in your deal. You as a class have done a very good job of identifying what those requirements are and responding to them.”
The 2014 $100K Student Technology Venture Competition is the 14th such competition UTSA has held so far. It was combined with the School of Engineering’s Senior Capstone Project Exhibition for the second spring in a row to form the Tech Symposium event. Before the competition, UTSA’s University Center Ballroom was filled with 41 different capstone project presentations which the universities civil, electrical and computer science, and mechanical engineering students had worked on for the last two semesters.
While the competition places most of the business-related responsibilities on the business students, it’s also a great experience for UTSA engineers because of the real-world collaboration it provides.
“It’s an eye-opening experience because as the engineer, we are taught throughout the entirety of our schooling that we are the problem solvers,” engineering senior Joseph Kissling said. “Any solution we come up with – good, bad, or indifferent – people need to want to buy it. And so that’s where they (business students) come in. They see a need and we develop a solution for the need. It’s kind of shown us our place in the business world, in the real world.”
CITE Director Cory Hallam, who emceed the competition believes that entrepreneurship programs at UTSA are vital to the San Antonio economy as well.
“These are the young entrepreneurs that either now, or five, ten years from now, will be creating the new companies in town that will create wealth – will create the next Rackspaces and next Vitacares that will grow the San Antonio economy,” Hallam said.
*Featured/top image: Engineering students explain their projects to judges, professors, and other students all morning for the the 2014 $100K Student Technology Venture Competition at UTSA. Photo by Andrew Moore.