Tag: O’Connor Fund

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!


Student Ventures

O’Connor Fund Showcases Entrepreneurial Spirit of JHU Undergrads

O’Connor Fund Showcases Entrepreneurial Spirit of JHU Undergrads


Ralph S. O’Connor and his wife, Becky IMAGE: homewoodphoto.jhu.edu

If interest in the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund is any indication, the spirit of entrepreneurship at The Johns Hopkins University is alive, well, growing and diversifying.

This year, 40 student teams applied for support from the O’Connor Fund, up from 22 in 2015 and seven in 2014. From this year’s applicant pool, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) advanced 19 teams to a pitch competition before selecting six winners.

“We heard a number of strong pitches over two days,” says Kasim Ahmad, JHTV’s student venture coordinator. “It was difficult to whittle the field down to six, but we believe the teams selected for this year’s cohort have the greatest opportunity to benefit from the program as they work to solve challenging problems.”

Launched in 2014-2015, the O’Connor Fund helps undergraduates’ fledgling startup ideas reach their potential. Founded by Ralph O’Connor, a Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences alumnus, and his wife, Becky, the program provides each cohort member a $5,000 non-dilutive grant, an opportunity to earn $5,000 more for reaching milestones, mentorship from entrepreneurs and investors, and other resources from JHTV.

O'Connor Cohort 2017
The 2017 Ralph S. O’Connor Cohort

The 2017 cohort features:

  • Foragerone – A platform that streamlines and standardizes how students look for university-affiliated research opportunities
    • Ansh Bhammar, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Sophomore
    • Yash Jain, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Sophomore
  • Fractal Tech – Scalable mobile app security for enterprise applications
    • Alex Sharata, Whiting School of Engineering, Junior
    • James Charles, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
  • Gaius – An online tool that utilizes college networks to source top technical talent for startups
    • Ron Boger, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
    • Alex Owens, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
  • Kaleyedos – Telemedicine for the retinopathy of premature screening procedures
    • Rebecca Miller, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
    • Erica Schwarz, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
    • Sami Messai, Whiting School of Engineering, Junior
    • Seony Han, Whiting School of Engineering, Junior
  • Squadz – A social activity platform to find, organize and reserve space for pickup sports and events
    • Nikhil Panu, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
    • John Stanton, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Senior
  • Tearn – An app to help college students connect with peers who can provide tutoring services
    • Pava LaPere, Whiting School of Engineering, Sophomore
    • Andrew Wong, Whiting School of Engineering, Sophomore
    • Brian Cueto, Whiting School of Engineering, Sophomore

“We have a tremendously talented and diverse group,” Ahmad says. “This cohort has a mix of upper and underclassmen, projects at various stages and students representing different campus programs and organizations, including Hophacks, Medhacks, TCO Labs and the school’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design. We believe this group will build on the success of last year’s cohort.”

The students certainly seem intent on doing so. Gaius CEO Ron Boger says he hopes the O’Connor Fund program will enable him to gain traction and build relationships with the startups and universities that will benefit from his mission to connect elite students with the most impactful and talented companies.

“We applied to be part of the O’Connor Fund cohort to obtain the mentorship and support that will accelerate our growth,” says Gaius CEO Ron Boger. “I’m looking forward to gaining perspective from being around such ambitious companies in the program, as well as the mentorship provided by JHTV.”

The entrepreneurs in the 2017 cohort have grand visions for their startups and see the O’Connor Fund program as a way to plant the seeds for sustained success. Take senior Erica Schwarz of Kaleyedos, a company developing a retinal imaging device. For now, the Kaleyedos team is currently focusing on infant retinal imaging but aims to expand the device and software suite to address many retinal imaging needs.

“Long-term, we want to see our device disrupt the retinal imaging industry,” Schwarz says. “Shorter-term, we want to use the resources from the Ralph S. O’Connor Fund to further build connections with key stakeholders.”

The six teams in the last year’s cohort used support from the O’Connor Fund as a springboard to raise $1.2 million in follow-on funding, hire 14 paid employees, interview more than 650 users or customers and complete 84 percent of their milestones.

As the 2017 cohort aims to reach those lofty heights, they will move through a program modified to better enable them to succeed. Based on feedback from the 2016 cohort and the program’s mentors, this year will feature an increase in engagement between teams, greater access to mentors, more networking opportunities, in-person workshops and online assignments based on each team’s individual challenges.

“The O’Connor Fund has evolved and will continue to evolve as we find better ways to serve our student entrepreneurs,” Ahmad says. “JHTV is committed to providing students the avenues that will help them turn ideas into sustainable businesses. The O’Connor Fund goes a long way in helping us achieve that.”

Want to learn more about the O’Connor Fund? Click here!

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