Category: Student Ventures

Student Ventures

Hopkins Students Get 3-Day Crash Course in Building a…

Hopkins Students Get 3-Day Crash Course in Building a Business

During his first two years at The Johns Hopkins University, Simon Barnett noticed an abundance of raw entrepreneurial talent and innovative ideas in his undergraduate peers. However, too few turned this potential into real businesses.

“Johns Hopkins has a strong entrepreneurship program, but I felt like something was missing,” says Barnett, who co-founded Nebulab Technologies, a cloud-based data management software company, in 2013. “We lacked programming that demystified entrepreneurship.”

Barnett recalled how a three-day workshop he attended in high school spurred his entrepreneurial pursuits, so he decided to bring that same type of program to his peers. Barnett raised nearly $10,000, did marketing and collaborated with Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ Kasim Ahmad to bring 3 Day Startup to campus.

This experiential education program has taught students in 40 different countries the basics of entrepreneurship, idea development and other essential skills for building a sustainable business. The 100 applications that Barnett received from students representing an array of class years and Hopkins schools serve as evidence that the program filled an unmet need.

From April 21 through April 23, the three dozen students accepted to participate in Johns Hopkins’ 3 Day Startup pitched ideas, formed teams and went to work growing a business using the lean startup approach.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen or even a dime for a thousand,” says Jeff Levine, a program coordinator at 3 Day Startup. “While we appreciate ideas, we’re all about action.”

“Our mission is to provide the hands-on aspect of entrepreneurship training. We push them into an uncomfortable zone where they have to take action.”

This uncomfortable zone includes performing one-on-one interviews with potential customers to determine market need and interest for the product or service the team plans to develop. Additionally, a group of mentors brought in throughout the weekend taught the students how to make prototypes and convey ideas to customers. By Sunday afternoon, the teams pitched judges, entrepreneurs and investors.

“I got really good feedback from our judges about how much progress the students made over the weekend,” Barnett says. “It was good to see how flexible and resilient the groups ended up being.”

Though the event is focused more on education rather than churning out businesses, at least one team that participated in 3 Day Startup will pursue launching a startup based on an idea developed at the event. Senior James Shamul and freshman Jamie Chen, both of the Whiting School of Engineering, teamed with Louis DeRidder, a visiting student at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, to work to bring BarberFleet to Baltimore in the near future.

Once launched, the mobile barbershop staffed with licensed cosmetologists from a local academy will keep Johns Hopkins students from having to make the inconvenient trek to an off-campus barber shop. Moreover, the startup will have a social component where it provides haircuts to Baltimore’s homeless population as well as access to other resources, including employment opportunities.

“I really appreciate all that Hopkins in general is trying to do for young entrepreneurs,” Shamul says. “There are a lot of ideas that students have, but if there’s no way to do it, the ideas just go away.”

The success and opportunity of this year’s event has inspired Barnett to turn 3 Day Startup into an annual installment. With planning for next year’s event already underway, Barnett says he wants to align 3 Day Startup with all of the other resources Johns Hopkins provides to create a linear path that gives student entrepreneurs the resources they need when they need it.

Barnett’s plan would have 3 Day Startup serve as one of the first student entrepreneurship events each academic year so entrepreneurs can learn the basics and formalize their raw ideas. From there, students would have time to work with academic advisors and FastForward’s student venture coordinator to refine strategy.

This would better prepare teams for the JHU Business Plan competition, and student funding programs such as the Ralph O’Connor or Summer Student Entrepreneurship Grant hopefully increasing both the quality and the quantity of student teams.

“What’s important to me is figuring out how we can demystify the entrepreneurial process by bringing together existing programming and talented students,” Barnett says. “It’s a massive undertaking, but I’m optimistic about the future.”

Click here to see all the ways JHTV supports student entrepreneurship.


Student Ventures

MoTrack Therapy Wins 2017 Summer Award for Undergraduate Entrepreneurs

MoTrack Therapy Wins 2017 Summer Award for Undergraduate Entrepreneurs

Three major issues limit the effectiveness of at-home hand therapy: adherence to a tedious rehab regimen, incorrectly performing exercises and a lack of quantitative data for therapists to evaluate.

Though MoTrack Therapy is developing a solution that modernizes the long stagnant physical therapy industry through machine learning, gamification and computer vision, the close of the 2017 spring semester threatened to send the five Johns Hopkins University biomedical engineering majors who co-founded the company hundreds of miles apart.

MoTrack Therapy aspires to bring at-home rehabilitation into the 21st century.

Fortunately, MoTrack received the Summer Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Award. The award, first offered in 2016 through the generosity of anonymous donors, supports one undergraduate startup each year with $10,000 along with space and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders in order to work on their startup over the summer.

“We were unsure about the best way to continue our patient testing and to maintain a lean and cohesive team,” says Rahul Yerrabelli, the company’s CTO and a rising junior studying biomedical engineering. “The Summer Award allows our team to work full-time on MoTrack Therapy over the summer so that we can continue our clinical testing, and pursue our business product development efforts.”

MoTrack aspires to develop a computer program that modernizes the physical therapy space and will ultimately increase patient adherence to rehab programs, expedite patient recovery with live corrective feedback and quantifiably show therapists their patients’ progress. The technology the team is developing currently focuses solely on rehabilitation from hand injuries, including wrist fractures and carpel tunnel, but it has the potential to be used for other parts of the body as well.

“Physical therapy is a field that has seen many new devices over the years but that has been untouched by the newest advances in computer science like computer vision and machine learning,” Yerrabelli says. “These advances will dominate the future in almost every field of health imaginable, and we want MoTrack Therapy to be at the forefront of their revolution on physical therapy.”

One of MoTrack’s goals for this summer is to move its clinical testing beyond Johns Hopkins and into other health care providers around the country. Additionally, they will look to their mentors for guidance on how to solidify their business model and how to identify new ways to provide value to employers, insurance companies and other intermediaries associated with patient care.

“With the money we received from the Summer Award, we can finally fund our growth to these other clinics, helping us with the logistical, transportation and time costs,” Yerrabelli says.

Interest in the Summer Award nearly tripled as JHTV received 35 applications in 2017 compared to 13 last year. From those nearly three dozen student ventures, three members of JHTV’s FastForward team ranked 10 finalists based on their in-person pitches. The anonymous donors chose the winner based on how much value they felt the startup would receive from the award.

“There was an extremely strong pool of applicants and selecting the winner was not easy,” says Kasim Ahmad, JHTV’s venture coordinator for student projects. “What set MoTrack apart was their level of commitment, the diversity of skill sets on their team and their plan for executing pilots.”

Last year, Fusiform, a startup led by Param Shah and Alex Matthews that set out to revolutionize the orthotics industry, won the inaugural Summer Award. Shah and Matthews used the funding and mentorship to develop more designs of its revolutionary orthotic, move its enterprise software into two clinics and eventually pivot their business to make it commercially viable in markets outside of orthotics. In January, Forbes named the pair to its 30 Under 30 list.

“Receiving the mentorship of world-class entrepreneurs and advisors at an early stage brought significant confidence to us as founders and to our team,” Shah says. “Additionally, funding from the Summer Award gave us the ability to tangibly grow our company.”

2015-2016 Ralph S. O’Connor cohort. MoTrack Therapy is in the front row.

The team at MoTrack sees the Summer Award as only one of the latest ways that Johns Hopkins is supporting student entrepreneurship. Yerrabelli pointed specifically to a new space on the Homewood campus designated specifically for student entrepreneurs and the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund, which helped MoTrack grow this past year.

“Johns Hopkins has a lot of talent—especially in the life sciences and health arena—and programs like the Summer Award help fill the gap between excellent research in the lab and products that actually make it to market,” Yerrabelli says. “It gives undergraduates the opportunity to think big and stay committed to their own ideas full-time over the summer.”


Want to learn more about how JHTV supports student ventures? Click here!


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