The startup team, comprised of three ASU students, earned $100,000
An Arizona State University team won $100,000 at the ASU Innovation Open on Friday to fund their business, which makes a device that relieves anxiety.
Hoolest Performance Technologies, made up of three ASU engineering students, won the grand prize at the entrepreneurial competition, beating out four other student-led ventures. The $100,000 investment will go toward creating more of the earbud devices, which block stress by stimulating the vagus nerve.
The idea was launched by Nicholas Hool, a biomedical engineering graduate student in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, who suffered from performance anxiety while he was a nationally competitive golfer in high school.
READ MORE: Hoolest lends an ear to stress relief
“Everyone is familiar with being nervous, whether it’s playing golf against Tiger Woods or giving a public presentation,” Hool told the judges during the team’s pitch. “Uncontrolled nerves can significantly inhibit your performance.”
Hoolest Performance Technologies earbuds sit inside the ear, like regular earbuds, and emit an electrical stimulation that connects to the vagus nerve, which activates the body’s own relaxation response, lowering the heart rate. Hool said the device, which will sell for about $200 when it eventually gets to market, works in minutes and the effect lasts for almost an hour without the side effects of anti-anxiety medications.
The company has already signed up a few professional golfers to test the earbuds, which will be targeted at elite athletes first, and then the general public.
The other members of Hoolest Performance Technologies are Sami Mian, a computer engineering graduate student, and John Patterson, an undergraduate in electrical engineering.
Hool said the $100,000 investment will go toward making about 300 more devices, which are now in clinical testing.
This was the second ASU Innovation Open, and the contest began accepting applications, in the form of five-minute videos, from hundreds of student-led teams last year. The contest was sponsored by Avnet, which donated the $100,000 top prize, and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. Additional sponsors were Zero Mass Water, Hool Coury Law, ON Semiconductor and SRP.
The other finalists were:
• Bloomer HealthTech, a company of three women from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that created a bra with sensors to record and evaluate heart data. They won $25,000.
• AirGarage, a platform to list, find and rent parking spaces at homes, churches and businesses near ASU’s Tempe campus. The company, created by ASU undergraduates Jonathon Barkl and Scott Fitsimones, won $20,000.
• Hygiea, a waste-management platform that uses a sensor to make cleaning more efficient. That company was founded by Saimon Shetty, an ASU alumnus.
• W8X, an interactive strength-training system created by a team of students from MIT.