Screenshots of team pitches presented at FastForward U's virtual Fall 2023 Spark Showcase.

The Johns Hopkins University’s FastForward U student-entrepreneurship hub encourages, coaches, and enables entrepreneurs and innovators to move their ideas forward and out into the world. This fall’s Spark entry-level venture accelerator works with all levels of students, from undergrad to postdoc, to support their entrepreneurial spirit and help them turn their ideas into viable businesses. The experience’s end-of-semester online Showcase spanned two days and was the culmination of the twelve-week intensive accelerator, held twice yearly.

On December 11 and 12, over 160 attendees tuned in to hear 34 early-stage student startup teams across disciplines share their ideas with a panel of eight accomplished alumni judges.

  • Elyse Heob, BSPH ’18, CBS’18, strategy and operations at Manos Health and co-founder of ClearMask
  • Mabinty Koroma-Moore, CBS ’17, CEO & founder of LIVE Africa
  • Sarah Lee, WSE ’19 & ’20, co-founder of Relavo
  • Param Shah, WSE ’18, co-founder & CEO at Badaboom
  • Leana Silverberg, BSPH ’23 & CBS ’23, biodesign policy fellow at the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign
  • Beena Tharakan, KSAS ’22, partner and principal consultant at The Sector Inc.
  • Deborah Weidman, WSE ’21, co-founder of Pneutech and Cranius
  • Sam O. Yilmaz, KSAS ’10 &WSE ‘13, general partner and COO at Bloccelerate

Leading up to the showcase, the teams participate in weekly skill-building workshops, receive mentorship from peer advisors, and work through curriculum to understand the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and to create a viable, incorporation-ready venture, able to leverage early-stage resources. Each participating student venture teams receive a $500 non-dilutive grant for completing the program. Additional prizes decided at the Showcase include:


  • Two $500 audience choice awards: UltraSeal (undergraduate team from Whiting School of Engineering) and FLOW (undergraduate team from Whiting School of Engineering)
  • Two $2,000 Judges’ prizes, which went to: Whisper (undergraduate team from Whiting School of Engineering) and Stem Equity Project (graduate team from the School of Education).


  • Audience choice awards: ComPLEX Dx (undergraduate team from Whiting School of Engineering) and EarlyBirdy (graduate team from Bloomberg School of Public Health)
  • Judges’ prizes: Biolinco (Ph.D. team from Whiting School of Engineering) and TiBi (graduate team from Carey Business School)

The full list of the early-stage startups and their descriptions is below. To connect with any of these teams, feel free to reach out to FastForward U staff.


  • A pioneering security software startup revolutionizing digital asset protection in transfers and transactions. With a cutting-edge proprietary security architecture, the platform ensures comprehensive online security. By integrating advanced compliance research software, Atlas AI promptly alerts users to potential threats, ensuring continuous digital safety in the ever-evolving online landscape.
  • The Black Heron Company: Founded by Briana Bostic, caters to the growing market of homeschooling families and institutional teachers seeking high-quality, diverse learning materials for young children. The company’s products focus on storytelling that incorporates problem-solving and social-emotional development, featuring characters reflecting the backgrounds of the children. Targeting ages from infancy to 8, the initial product line includes books with instructional guidance for adult readers, fostering a meaningful learning experience at home and in school.
  • CheepaMeds: A patient-centered medicine solution partner, offering access to pharmaco-equivalent (generic brand) alternatives. With a focus on critical health conditions in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), CheepaMeds goes beyond by providing access to credit for medicine procurement, ensuring a holistic and accessible healthcare solution.
  • Cupola: Innovating with a cloud-based design software tailored for wood and cold-formed steel framed buildings. Designed with a modern interface and customized features, this software optimizes the structural design process. By reducing time spent on calculations, it empowers designers to make high-impact decisions, resulting in superior structural designs.
  • DermaCair: A groundbreaking software solution employing AI and real dermatologists to analyze patient-uploaded photos, offering 24/7 dermatology consultations to reduce stress and anxiety. The service provides diagnoses and treatment plans, monetized through a fee charged to patients for photo uploads and expert consultations, creating accessible and timely dermatological care.
  • Eloquia: A digital platform driven by machine learning, assists individuals with speech impediments and those aiming to enhance fluency. Users submit recordings for personalized analysis, with the platform offering insights and a visual tracking system for monitoring improvement. Empowering users and aiding speech therapists, Eloquia fosters increased confidence and improved communication for individuals with speech impediments.
  • E-Z Straps: Redefining the transportation of surfboards on car roof racks. Born out of the need for a simple, efficient, and affordable alternative, E-Z Straps is designed by surfers, for surfers. Providing a convenient solution, it aims to make board transportation accessible to all surf enthusiasts.
  • FLOW: A wearable technology designed to actively monitor and optimize breath control for its user. Offering a personalized approach to enhance respiratory well-being, FLOW empowers individuals to achieve optimal breath control for improved health and mindfulness.
  • Gogeta: The revolutionary solution in the cybersecurity realm. This innovative and scalable vulnerability scanning framework simplifies the scanning process, optimizes efficiency, and reduces resource consumption. Uniquely integrating multiple open-source tools into a unified system, Gogeta automates vulnerability identification and analysis. Its distributed architecture allows for large-scale scanning across multiple servers, enhancing scalability and cost-effectiveness. With a modular design for easy tool integration and customization, Gogeta delivers precise results in today’s dynamic cybersecurity landscape.
  • HopDrop: An on-Johns Hopkins campus delivery app facilitating convenient food delivery for college affiliates. Users can have their mobile orders from the Mobile Order App delivered by fellow Hopkins affiliates. The app also provides an opportunity for users to earn by delivering food to others. Operating in tandem with the existing Mobile Order app, HopDrop enhances the convenience of food delivery by leveraging the shared community of Hopkins affiliates.
  • Melense: Partners with existing hardware companies providing screens for patients, creating a social health platform connected to telemedicine services. Offering mental-health check-ins, Melense facilitates virtual events for patients, fostering connections and social engagement throughout the hospital. The platform also provides access to tailored social engagement content, creating a holistic approach to patient well-being.
  • People’s Pros: An AI-enabled platform connecting buyers with repairs, maintenance, and ‘odd jobs’ to qualified contractors. Buyers post service descriptions, including images and videos, and our app lists jobs, notifying contractors based on ratings and proximity. Contractors submit cost estimates, fostering price competition and eliminating price gouging. The selected contractor receives payment through the app, and upon job completion, both parties report for quality control and ratings before the contractor is paid.
  • Plaza: Redefines sports entertainment, introducing novice fans to leagues like the NBA through AI-driven learning content. Leveraging large-language models, users explore sports highlights based on preferences and learning levels. Plaza hosts daily challenges for users to compete, earn points, and connect with a sports community, offering a unique approach to engaging fans in the world of sports entertainment.
  • PrideMind: An application designed for individuals seeking mental health management and a deeper understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community. Leveraging screen time, notifications, and social media usage, PrideMind aids users in maintaining a healthy and sustainable mental state while exploring their queer identity.
  • SealSync: Introduces a smart fridge system, combining hardware devices directly attached to your fridge with a mobile application. Designed to reduce food waste and promote healthy dieting, it automatically maintains a digital inventory of your fridge’s contents. Ideal for families, college students, and health-conscious individuals, SealSync employs AI and computer vision to alert users about expiring food, sends reminders for shopping, and generates healthy recipes based on user preferences.
  • SkillLink: An AI-driven professional networking platform transforming the job market. With personalized resume generation and intelligent matching, we connect job seekers with ideal opportunities and empower entrepreneurs to discover the right talent. Our innovative approach streamlines job searching and knowledge acquisition, enhancing efficiency and outcomes for individuals and businesses alike.
  • STEM Equity Project: A social enterprise empowering underrepresented minority students in upper elementary and middle school grades to explore science, mathematics, and engineering concepts through a subscription box service. Each box includes materials for STEM investigations, engaging videos for concept explanation, and an online platform fostering a community where students can share experiences and creations, promoting a common interest in STEM.
  • VisualScore: A revolutionary music notation software, blending features from vector graphics editing programs like Adobe Illustrator with traditional music notation software. This unique combination empowers users to create musical scores faster and with greater flexibility than current options. By breaking away from tradition, VisualScore actively encourages new musical innovations on an unprecedented level.
  • UltraSeal: Revolutionizing cancer treatment, this startup pioneers High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), a minimally invasive technology targeting breast, prostate, and liver tumors. Overcoming the challenges of surgical removal, HIFU ensures quicker recovery and less pain. The startup addresses HIFU’s limited clinical adoption by introducing a groundbreaking transducer calibration method using sonoluminescence. By analyzing optical emissions in a specially designed medium, the system precisely characterizes HIFU parameters at true therapeutic levels, aiming to enhance its widespread effectiveness.
  • Whisper: Leads the next wave of accessibility innovation with its groundbreaking Haptic Communication Technology (HCT). Designed to enhance connectivity for people with sensory disabilities, Whisper consists of Sali, an efficient communication protocol derived from Morse code, and a Haptic Communication Device (HCD) utilizing vibration motors to transmit signals onto the skin. This technology opens new avenues for interaction with modern technology through the sense of touch.

Watch FastForward U’s Spark Showcase Fall 2023: Day One


  • Biolinco: Revolutionizing biomanufacturing with a high-throughput cell line development platform, allowing companies to screen 2500 times more cells for large-scale manufacturing. Addressing the current limitation of screening only 0.1% of potential cells, Biolinco aims to significantly increase product yields, thereby reducing process costs and potentially saving biomanufacturing companies billions over the lifetime of a drug.
  • Cell Mind: Dedicated to revolutionizing Cell Therapy through AI technologies and Data Analysis, focusing on donor prescreening and patient outcome prediction. Our tailored platform caters to regenerative and oncology therapy companies, blood banks, and equipment providers, with the mission of making Cell Therapy, especially CAR T therapy, more affordable and accessible on a national and global scale.
  • comPLEX Dx: Addresses the critical need for rapid detection of pathogens in time-sensitive respiratory diseases. Our innovative solution utilizes a multiplexed diagnostic tool with novel LFA technology, allowing detection of multiple pathogens in a single use. The two-part sensing solution includes a disposable chip with embedded DNA probes, providing an accurate and cost-effective method for pathogen detection. With the potential for at-home testing in future models, comPLEX Dx aims to expedite diagnosis and treatment, reducing reliance on large testing sites and increasing accessibility.
  • Deepnosis: On a mission to revolutionize personalized medicine with AI-powered prediction of medication side effects. Our patented technology analyzes a patient’s personal and health information, forecasting potential side effects from a specific drug before administration. This personalized approach empowers doctors and patients to make informed decisions, replacing population-stat-based pharmacovigilance and enhancing drug safety. Deepnosis aims to lower the financial burden of drug side effects on healthcare systems while making drug administration safer for individuals.
  • DoryAI: A community-driven, AI-powered personalized design customization e-commerce platform. With a focus on story-based multimodal AI and a community platform, Dory aims to revolutionize the creation of narrative universes, offering a unique and personalized experience in design customization.
  • EarlyBirdy: A snooze-proof solution designed to get you out of bed and your room, simultaneously training your body to develop healthy sleep and technology habits. With consistent usage, EarlyBirdy helps users overcome late-night sleeping and morning snoozing, promoting a more disciplined and productive start to the day.
  • Health Cloud:  An AI-based platform empowering users to access and manage all their health data in one consolidated area, creating their personalized ‘Health Cloud.’ Key features include leveraging Vision AI and various APIs to consolidate wearables, lifestyle, medical, and lab data. Users can quickly share their data, utilize the biomarker matrix for insights into potential underlying causes, access a reference base for digital twin comparisons, and track changes in biomarkers over time, understanding associations with treatments and actions taken.
  • High Five: Revolutionizing chatbot AI experience for software developers.
  • Illuminate Health Assistants: Your personal healthcare concierge service, liberating you from the burdensome administrative tasks of managing your health. Our mission is to empower individuals to regain control of their lives, allowing them to savor meaningful moments, while we seamlessly handle the complexities of healthcare logistics.
  • POCKET-CAST: A revolutionary bacterial infection ID and CAST platform designed for rapid, point-of-care, and high-throughput applications. In response to the alarming global impact of bacterial infections, which contribute to 1/8 of all deaths, POCKET-CAST addresses the urgent need for swift and accurate identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing. Unlike traditional methods that are time-consuming, POCKET-CAST provides a solution for immediate and effective antibiotic treatment, making it accessible for general patients and adaptable for healthcare professionals.
  • Stacked: Ensures no student is left out on campus events by developing a platform that allows students to connect with events they are truly interested in, fostering a sense of community and engagement.
  • The Safe Space: A digital platform which empowers users to understand and articulate their emotions better. Providing a supportive environment, the platform facilitates emotional exploration and expression, fostering a sense of well-being and self-awareness. Aimed especially at the 12-18 age group.
  • TouchDrive: Addresses the alarming toll of drunk-driving crashes, with a simple yet effective solution. The system actively prevents drivers with illegal BAC levels from starting their ignition systems. TouchDrive not only enhances road safety but also provides insurance companies with valuable biodata on the driving behaviors of their policy members, contributing to a safer and more responsible driving culture.
  • TiBi: Stands as Indonesia’s inaugural Trusted and Standardized Franchise platform for baby daycare and babysitters. Offering a management franchise concept for existing providers, TiBi aims to streamline the childcare ecosystem. The platform provides credible information and secure monitoring for parents, while offering standardized marketing and management tools for daycare owners.

Watch FastForward U’s Spark Showcase Fall 2023: Day Two

FastForward U’s next accelerator application cycle is open now and will remain open until the end of January 2024. The new cohort will begin in early February and will conclude at the end of the spring semester.