Category: Awards

Awards

Summer Award Winner: Weel Working to Solve Major E-Commerce…

Summer Award Winner: Weel May Solve Major E-Commerce Conundrum

 
Mobile users accounted for more than half of Internet traffic in 2017, yet retail purchases from mobile devices resulted in less than 25 percent of e-commerce spend. So, why are consumers reluctant to buy on their smartphones and tablets? Eyan Goldman has answers.

“Most e-commerce vendors don’t want to spend the money to develop and maintain an app which people may not adopt,” the rising sophomore at Johns Hopkins University says. “Additionally, e-commerce hasn’t yet integrated a social experience like what is traditionally found in retail shopping.”

The solution, Goldman believes, is a social platform known as Weel that transforms how shoppers interact with websites and enables them to easily connect with friends. Weel’s progress and potential earned it FastForward U’s third-ever Summer Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Award.

“Eyan and the Weel team demonstrated uncommon dedication, as well as a comprehensive understanding of their product’s marketability and the next steps in its development,” says Darius Graham, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ director of student ventures. “We’re excited to see how much progress the team will make over the summer.”

Weel’s platform — which Goldman, a computer science major, is developing with Cal Lavicka, a high school friend currently studying at Carnegie Mellon University, and Johns Hopkins classmates — uses an intelligent layout system that simplifies the user interface of e-commerce webpages to make browsing, shopping and purchasing on websites much simpler.

A social component of Weel enables shoppers to elicit peer feedback simply by pressing and swiping the image of a product to a Facebook friend. This action seamlessly sends all of the product’s data to the friend who can weigh in before a user makes a purchase.

“Our platform transforms the way users interact with retail websites,” Goldman says. “Weel is designed to work on any website instantaneously as our technology does not require the consent of the host website.”

Weel plans to roll out a beta of its platform for iPhones this summer and to have a full launch in early 2019. (Those interested in participating in the beta can contact Weel at beta@joinweel.com.)

To monetize the platform, Goldman plans to engage brands and provide them opportunities to show Weel users products similar to what they share with friends. When a user purchases one of the suggested products, Weel would receive a portion of each sale.

“With Weel, brands don’t have to fear being hurt by having an online ad placed on a website with which they’d prefer not to associate,” Goldman says of his platform’s advantage. “Additionally, brands also have the opportunity to advertise directly to someone who they know is interested in a similar product.”

The Summer Award, funded by an anonymous Johns Hopkins University alumnus, provides Weel with $10,000, a space to work for the summer and mentorship from the FastForward U team and the Summer Award donor.

Weel will use the funding to cover Lavicka’s rent in Baltimore as well as bring on two interns who can develop the platform’s user interface. Without the award, Goldman says, the team would have had trouble making progress in June, July and August. Goldman and Lavicka live in New York City, but the city would have made getting space and talent cost-prohibitive.

The value and opportunity of the Summer Award has made it highly sought after among Johns Hopkins’ student ventures. This year, 14 highly qualified teams applied for the award.

“We were really impressed with the applicant pool for this year’s Summer Award as it represented the most advanced undergraduate startups at Hopkins,” Graham says.

Receiving the Summer Award is just the latest support Weel has received from FastForward U. Last fall, the group filled out FastForward U’s general interest form to better understand the resources and support it could provide. Shortly thereafter, Weel was named to the 2017-2018 Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund cohort and received additional mentorship and guidance.

“FastForward U has been unbelievably helpful,” Goldman says. “We definitely wouldn’t be as far along as we are today without them.”

Weel is the third team to win the Summer Award. The first two teams, FactoryFour and MoTrack Therapy, have used the funding and mentorship the award provides to advance their companies.

FactoryFour, known as Fusiform when they received the award in 2016, has moved into its own space in Mount Vernon, added clients and was recently named to Technical.ly Baltimore’s realLIST as it develops a solution for digital fabrication.
 
MoTrack Therapy, last year’s Summer Award winner currently developing a platform for better at-home injury rehabilitation, was recently recognized as a finalist at Baylor University’s New Venture Competition and won $1,500.

Goldman believes Weel can follow in the footsteps of those two budding ventures.

“My dream for Weel is to have it become a really popular and useful resource for people,” Goldman says. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think that there was at least a shot at that.”
 

Learn more about FastForward U!

 

Awards

11 Startups with JHTV Ties Rank Among Baltimore’s Best

11 Startups with JHTV Ties Rank Among Baltimore’s Best

 
 
In the last six months, Personal Genome Diagnostics (PGDx) raised a $75 million series B, Harpoon Medical sold for $100 million and Sunayu acquired Fractal Technology. Which Baltimore startup is next?

According to Technical.ly, businesses associated with Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) are leading the next generation of Baltimore startups. Last week, the publication released the realLIST to catalogue the city’s “top companies who have already shown promise.” The top six companies ranked and 11 of the 20 mentioned have ties to JHTV.
 
 

THE CRITERIA

 
Technical.ly selected a group of startups tackling diverse challenges related to manufacturing, education, health care, social issues and more. To determine “promise,” considerations included:
 

  • Boldness of idea
  • Talent levels of founders and team
  • Customer base and revenue
  • Investment capital
  • Potential impact
  • Office space

 

STARTUPS WITH JOHNS HOPKINS TIES

 
1. READY Robotics
 
The FastForward startup based in City Garage enables small- and medium-sized manufacturers to unlock the productivity and potential of robots. The company’s software, which it installs in pre-made manufacturing robots, allows manufacturers to change the tasks their robots perform in hours, instead of days or weeks.
 
 
2. Osmosis
 
A venture in the 2013-2014 Social Innovation Lab (SIL) cohort, Osmosis has created web- and mobile-based interactive learning experiences and an online community to help medical school students study. The startup co-founded by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine students recently expanded into print.
 
 
3. FactoryFour
 
FactoryFour is a solution that automates manufacturing processes for the production of orthotics, eyewear and footwear, reducing lead time and eliminating errors. Johns Hopkins University undergraduates Param Shah and Alex Mathews co-founded the company and used a number of JHTV resources. In addition to participating in SIL’s 2015-2016 cohort, the Mount Vernon-based startup received funding and mentorship through the Summer Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Award.
 
 
4. Intelehealth
 
Led by Johns Hopkins University graduate student Neha Goel, Intelehealth operates in the telemedicine space and is developing a mobile app that improves access to health care for remote and underserved communities. Intelehealth was a member of the 2016-2017 SIL cohort.
 
 
5. Proscia
 
Operating in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Proscia is ushering in an era of computational pathology. Proscia CEO David West, who founded the company with other Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering undergraduates, aims to give pathologists a quantitative view of cancer, enabling them to improve patient outcomes. Proscia received funding and mentorship from JHTV’s Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund.
 
 
6. b.Well
 
B.Well’s online platform puts people at the center of their health care by simplifying access to health data, insurance and on-demand health services. The startup participated in the M-1 Ventures accelerator where it grew its pipeline 300 percent and won one of two $25,000 awards.
 
 
8. B-360
 
B-360 is on a mission to end the cycle of poverty and build bridges in communities through a STEM education program and advocacy program centered on Baltimore’s dirt bike culture. B-360 participated in Social Innovation Lab as a member of its 2016-2017 cohort.
 
 

HONORABLE MENTION

Sunrise Health
 
Co-founded in 2016 by two Johns Hopkins University students, Sunrise Health is developing a mobile app for anonymous, text-based group therapy that increases mental health support for patients and maximizes health care providers’ efficiency. Sunrise Health participated in the 2016-2017 Social Innovation Lab cohort, received support from the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund and the Whiting Student Initiatives Fund.
 
 
BurnAlong
 
BurnAlong provides an online video fitness and wellness platform that enables users to work out with top instructors from across the country and their friends. After participating in M-1 Ventures, BurnAlong had 400 business partners and more than 3,000 members. The company also won $25,000 through M-1 Ventures.
 
 
Portable Alternative Crib
 
Shantell Roberts distributes safe sleep baby boxes and supplies to Baltimore families to reduce the rate of sudden infant death syndrome in the city. She was a member of the 2016-2017 SIL cohort, winning the $25,000 prize at the conclusion of the program.
 
 
PathoVax
 
A member of FastForward, PathoVax is developing a universal Human Papillomavirus vaccine. Co-founded by two Johns Hopkins University graduate students, the startup recently received two federal grants totaling $2.5 million that will help the company push its first product to clinical trials.
 

Click here to learn more about Johns Hopkins startups!

 

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