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New Mayo Clinic-ASU MedTech Accelerator opens applications

January 16, 2019

The Mayo Clinic-ASU MedTech Accelerator, a collaboration between Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University that is designed specifically for medical device and health care technology companies, is now accepting applications.

The program, leveraging the resources and venture expertise of two innovative institutions, is designed for companies looking to take their business to the next level. Participants can expect to walk away from the program with personalized business development plans to collaborate with Mayo Clinic and ASU, as well as accelerate go-to-market and investment opportunities. New Mayo Clinic - ASU MedTech Accelerator launching in April Download Full Image

Dr. Steven Lester, M.D.,  chief medical officer of the Mayo Clinic-ASU MedTech Accelerator, says the goal is to help startups bridge the development gap.

"We can help the participants to enhance the clinical and commercial interest, and viability of their health care solution," said Lester, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist. "Our hope is that the businesses both gain knowledge to best forge their path forward as well as use the brand of the program to mitigate the risk when seeking investors. Above all, we want to truly translate idealism into action and help to invent the health care of tomorrow."

Rick Hall, director of health innovation at ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the accelerator's co-managing partner, says this concept provides businesses rare access to the university's well-established startup network.

"The number of patents and amount of funding going to startups through the vehicles of ASU's Entrepreneurship + Innovation and Skysong Innovations is significant," Hall said. "This accelerator will allow outside health technology companies to benefit from the ASU support network, while also leveraging the extraordinary business development and research opportunities of Mayo Clinic."

Those participating will take part in an accelerator immersion April 22–May 3 at Mayo Clinic's Scottsdale campus. The remaining components of the accelerator program can be done remotely. In total, the accelerator will be six months for each cohort, with incentives offered to participants to stay and work in Arizona.

Similar accelerators on other Mayo Clinic campuses have been successful. This effort builds off those accomplishments and capitalizes on the dynamic and emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem in Arizona.

"Beyond our great weather and low cost of living, we have access to top-tier research faculty, world-class physicians and a pipeline of talent coming out of our academic programs. The Mayo-ASU alliance uniquely positions Arizona as an attractive location for companies to accelerate growth," Hall said.

Charlie Lewis, senior vice president of Venture Development at Skysong Innovations, says it's an exciting time for this industry and something ASU definitely wants to continue to be a part of.

"The med-tech space has entered into a new frontier of health care with the emergence of artificial intelligence, advanced techniques in engineering design and other technologies that have enabled personalized patient care never before imagined," Lewis said.

Businesses nationwide are encouraged to apply if they meet the criteria. Each company selected will be required to execute a participation agreement and pay $50,000 to join. 

Learn more about accelerator.

Amanda Goodman

Media relations officer, College of Nursing and Health Innovation


ASU’s Biodesign Institute and Banner Research announce neuroscience scholars summer program

Undergrad and grad students are eligible; applications due by March 1

January 11, 2019

If understanding the inner workings of the brain is on your mind, now is the time to explore the Banner-ASU Neuroscience Scholars program. Top-achieving college undergraduate and graduate science students are eligible to apply for the paid eight-week training program. Applications must be received by March 1.

Students selected for the program will work side-by-side with some of the world’s most talented scientists, clinicians and researchers in an environment devoted to neuroscientific biomedical research and clinical care. Banner started the scholars program 16 years ago. Since then, more than 220 students have donned lab coats for a summer of science. Most of the students pursue degrees in science or medicine. The Biodesign Institute joined the partnership three years ago. Download Full Image

“The Banner-ASU Neuroscience Scholars program provides invaluable hands-on experiences in the lab or clinic that fuel the curiosity, creativity and talent of the young people who participate each year,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. “We greatly appreciate the investments which help our students to flourish year after year.”

Students will work on a research project full-time in a laboratory under the mentorship of a scientist from Banner Research or the Biodesign Institute.

Students will have the opportunity to select one of four research tracks for deeper study, including basic and translational neuroscience; computational image analysis; healthy aging research; and brain and body donation. Each research track is correlated to a participating training facility.

CJ Bruske, a 2018 Neuroscience Scholar program alumni and a University of Arizona Honors College graduate, said, “My ultimate goal in life is to leave the greatest impact on my community … whether that be discoveries in the lab that ensure the next generation does not suffer from debilitating diseases or impacting a single individual in a medical setting.”

“The need is greater than ever to work collaboratively in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease,” said Eric Reiman, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute executive director and University Professor of Neuroscience at ASU. “It is a true honor to educate and inspire the creative minds of students across the country. They’re working to find answers to some of the most challenging questions, then bring their passion home to other students and colleagues.”

Students will receive hands-on training, attend educational seminars, learn about career options, practice scientific writing, attend social-networking events and create a scientific poster to present the outcomes of their research at a concluding symposium.

Banner started the scholars program 16 years ago. Since then, more than 220 students have donned lab coats for a summer of science. Most of the students pursue degrees in science or medicine. The Biodesign Institute joined the partnership three years ago.

Scholars are expected to commit 35 to 40 hours per week to the program. A stipend of $125 per week, for a total of $1,000, will be provided upon successful completion of the program. The overall aim is to give scholars cutting-edge experience in biomedical and clinical research.

Past participants have gone on to achieve success and shared impressive accomplishments, including scientific abstract and manuscript publications, top national student rankings, acceptance into first-rate graduate and medical schools, and national awards and scholarships.

Shiv Shah, an ASU student in the 2018 program, said, “I am passionate about neuroscience because I am fascinated by the intricacies and circuitry of the brain. The fact that billions of neurons are communicating with one another and give us consciousness and the ability to think simply amazes me.”

Haidyn Bulen, an ASU student and alumni of the 2018 Neuroscience Scholar program, said, “I am passionate about neuroscience because the brain is the very core of what it means to be human. … Neuroscience requires innovative thinkers and problem solvers.”

The Neuroscience Scholars program is an extraordinary opportunity for high-achieving students to connect their coursework to real-world experiences that cannot be replicated in conventional settings. Last year philanthropic gifts provided critical funding to make this program possible for nearly a dozen students — however, more than 100 qualified students applied. Organizers are actively seeking additional resources to make the Neuroscience Scholars experience available to more students in 2019. Visit our program website to learn more about opportunities to support this outstanding program.  

For more information, eligibility requirements and application, visit Neurosciencescholars.org

Written by Dianne Price

ASU and Phoenix issue new call for ventures to innovate for waste prevention and diversion

January 4, 2019

Arizona State University, named the most innovative school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for four straight years, in collaboration with the city of Phoenix — named the top performing city overall by Governing and Living Cities — are calling for innovators and entrepreneurs to participate in the RISN Incubator, a diverse solutions business development and accelerator program. The application period is open now.

The RISN Incubator is a program within the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) and supports new-to-market ventures that focus on improvements in processing or utilization of waste as a raw material for new products or energy. Selected enterprises receive unique access to resources and support from ASU and Phoenix to develop their solutions that contribute to the regional and national development of a vibrant circular economy. The RISN Incubator is a business accelerator operated within the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service to drive a vibrant circular economy. The RISN Incubator, operated in partnership between ASU's Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service and Entrepreneurship + Innovation, works with the city of Phoenix and its public works department to drive a robust circular economy in Arizona and beyond. Download Full Image

“We are excited to engage a new cohort of innovators to build upon the impact of our initial 13 companies and help drive a stronger, more resilient economy that continues to explore new ways to close loops, create jobs and drive innovation,” said Alicia Marseille, director of the RISN Incubator. “In just two cohorts, RISN Incubator ventures have generated more than $4.1 million in revenue and created 43 jobs, proving the substantial impact these companies have made in just over one year.”

The RISN Incubator provides access to technical experts — including university faculty — for their advancement, workshops and training, business plan and growth strategy development, access to materials called feedstocks from Phoenix’s waste transfer station and a process for continuous evaluation and prequalification for funding opportunities with introductions to funders.

“By cultivating public-private partnerships to turn trash into new products, the Phoenix Public Works Department continues to work to increase our waste diversion rate and create economic impact in our city,” said Ginger Spencer, Phoenix Public Works director. “As inspiring as it is to see the new businesses take hold, it is even more inspiring to work with them to help us meet our waste diversion goals for 2020 and beyond.”

Startup concepts eligible for the incubator include, but are not limited to, conversion of solid waste into new material or energy; services that divert, reuse or recycle; and software applications and design services that focus on sustainability. The priority waste feedstocks that the successful ventures will have access to include plastics, batteries, carpeting and carpet foam, broken furniture, mattresses, textiles, food waste, compost and plastic film.

Thirteen ventures have completed their mentorship period within the incubator, including the following:

  • Renewlogy, developer of a proprietary chemical recycling process that allows plastic to be reversed back into its basic molecular structure, converting nonrecycled plastic waste into new valuable products such as high-value fuels. Renewlogy was a winner of the 2017 Arizona Innovation Open and the 2018 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open.
  • Hathority, which specializes in software integration and application development in order to make societal impacts such as reduce landfill waste, improve recycling and change customer behavior.
  • Recyclops, who has used mobile app technology to bring recycling and waste diversion through a sharing economy model to areas that otherwise would not have options aside from sending their trash to landfill. Both rural communities and high density multifamily residential complexes are often without recycling services.

“The team at ASU knows everyone in the who's who of the circular economy space,” said Ryan Smith, founder and CEO of Recyclops. “We have been astounded by the relationships that we've been able to build because of RISN and the lessons we've learned. It's truly been a life-changing experience for us and has had an enormous positive effect as we continue to push our business forward.”

This call for innovators and entrepreneurs is open until Jan. 31, with cohort finalists notified of their selection by Feb. 18.

The RISN Incubator is operated at ASU by the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service and ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation. For more information about the RISN Incubator including the application questions, visit RISNincubator.asu.edu.

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives


Anonymous donor steps up to the plate to fund ASU foodpreneur program

December 21, 2018

With new funding and a new coordinator, Prepped — a free, early-stage food business incubator at Arizona State University — is accepting applications for its sixth cohort to begin in spring 2019.

The program is a collaboration from the office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the College of Nursing and Health Innovation with additional support from the College of Health Solutions. Prepped participants at the fall showcase Prepped, a free, early-stage food business incubator at Arizona State University, is accepting applications for its sixth cohort to begin in spring 2019. Download Full Image

The new donors chose to remain anonymous, as they wanted the impact of their gift to be the focus.

“This couple was inspired by the accomplishments of the entrepreneurs over the past couple of years and they wanted to help ensure future success, so they’ve committed to funding Prepped for the next two years. We are incredibly grateful to them for their generosity,” said Rick Hall, director of health innovation programs and clinical professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

In addition to providing funding to keep the program free for the business owners and to reimburse costs toward food-safety training and permits, the significant gift also allowed for a new program coordinator position.

Natalie Morris was recently hired for the job, bringing a wealth of experience to the role. Her academic background is in food culture, communications and culinary arts. She’s also a food entrepreneur herself and has worked in nutrition, academia and grassroots nonprofits over the past 12 years.

“Natalie is a perfect fit to coordinate the efforts of Prepped. She has worked in the local food ecosystem for several years and has developed a strong network in the community. Natalie has a passion for empowering food entrepreneurs and is also very interested in sustainability, an important issue that she is infusing into the curriculum,” Hall said.

Morris says Prepped essentially brings all of her interests and backgrounds together, helping small food-based businesses achieve liftoff and doing so in an inspiring academic setting.

One of her favorite aspects of the program and also the most rewarding is getting to work alongside the female entrepreneurs who participate.

“I'm just back here putting the pieces together each week; they're the ones who are managing their businesses in addition to being mothers, caretakers, bill-payers and everything else at all times. I love that I have the opportunity to contribute to making their lives even the tiniest bit more manageable and that Prepped has been designed to give them the tools to run businesses efficiently,” said Morris.

Her vision is to build on the momentum and achievements of previous cohorts while introducing new elements that support the sustained success of each of the participants.

“When we are thinking about the curriculum, the instructors or mentors, or our community partners, we are always thinking about how these pieces of the puzzle will be of value for everyone. One such example I'm proud to announce is that we've collaborated with the FoodLab at ASU's School of Sustainability to integrate more corporate sustainability techniques into the weekly lessons and, in looking ahead, having our own commercial kitchen (a priority need for food businesses) is on our radar,” Morris said.

Originally founded in 2016 by Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU, Prepped’s growth and the community it has created are two things she is incredibly proud of.

“When we started Prepped just over two years ago, we didn’t anticipate just how impactful the program would be. We have been able to support dozens of entrepreneurs in the scaling up of their food-based businesses, accelerating the growth of revenues exponentially, and helping create dozens of jobs. And perhaps most importantly, fostering a community where even long after participants have completed the program, they still come together around food, culture and helping each other in any way they can,” Choi said.

To date, 63 businesses have been prepped and, as Choi said, the supportive community they’ve built continues as they get ready to welcome the next cohort.

Devereaux Jackson from Q-Tsie was in one of the early cohorts and says the experience exceeded expectations and continues to even now.

“This is abundance. I am continually in awe at the wealth of industry knowledge and support that Prepped has made available to us. I am immensely grateful,” Jackson said.

For anyone on the fence about applying, Morris says if you fit the eligibility, don’t let fear stand in your way. Instead, just go for it.

The program runs each fall and spring with applications for the next cohort open now. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31.

For eligibility and additional program information, visit the Prepped website: https://nursingandhealth.asu.edu/prepped.

Amanda Goodman

Media relations officer, College of Nursing and Health Innovation


Five student ventures progress to compete for $100,000 prize in 2019 ASU Innovation Open

December 19, 2018

Last Friday, five student-led teams each won $5,000 and moved one step closer to potentially earning the $100,000 grand prize to fund their startups in the ASU Innovation Open pitch competition.

Excitement and expectation reverberated throughout the presentation room at ASU’s SkySong campus as the early-stage entrepreneurs representing the top 15 ventures presented five-minute pitches to peers and a panel of judges made up of Phoenix-area business leaders and entrepreneurs. ASU Innovation Open finalists Five teams representing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of California, San Diego; McGill University; University of Pennsylvania; and Brown University have progressed to the finals for the 2019 ASU Innovation Open. These teams will pitch their ventures for the chance to win $100,000 to help fund their startups. Download Full Image

The ASU Innovation Open, which is in its third year, invites student-led, multidisciplinary teams of collegiate startup founders who are harnessing the power of entrepreneurship to tackle the world’s most challenging problems.

Selected from dozens of applications submitted from around the world, the student ventures ranged from biotech startups developing technology to optimize personalized health to one company’s out-of-this-world prototype aiming to remove and reduce space debris.

The day included advice and feedback from Todd Davis, CEO and co-founder of LifeLock, a Tempe-based company that has been safeguarding users against identity theft since 2005, and a question-and-answer session from a panel of past ASU Innovation Open winners and competitors.

Five finalists were chosen to receive a $5,000 cash prize from Zero Mass Water, an Arizona State University spinoff founded in 2015 by ASU Associate Professor Cody Friesen.

“Zero Mass Water gives this gift of $25,000 a year because while we’re a startup — although a late-stage startup — it’s never too early to begin paying forward and building an ecosystem of entrepreneurship,” said Friesen. “We got this massive leg up because of the existence of ASU and being competitive within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Thinking about how we can enable other entrepreneurs to get that leg up to go faster is what we were thinking about when we founded this competition and now why we fund the semifinals.”

Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering — another of the event’s sponsors — welcomed students and guests. Using Zero Mass Water as an example, he encouraged the young entrepreneurs to strive to make a lasting impact in their communities.

“This is when it’s working — a company out in the community, employing engineers, creating value and closing the loop by giving back. And that’s what we want you to be able to do in your communities,” said Squires. “Get to the point where you are not only having individual success and advancing your venture and the networks you’re creating, but that you can also eventually give back. Once that cycle starts to work, it feeds on and repeats itself, and then the entire community is winning.”

Avnet’s ongoing partnership with ASU includes supporting aspiring entrepreneurs to advance their innovations and is the reason the company has supported and sponsored the competition since its inception.  

"For the third year in a row, we’ve seen incredible innovation, imagination and sophistication from these young entrepreneurs," said Melissa Gray, vice president of Corporate Affairs for Avnet. "The competition keeps getting better and better, and it’s very exciting to watch that progression. The types of technology solutions presented today take on some of the world’s toughest challenges underscoring our own guiding mantra to ‘reach further’ and make a difference." 

The five ventures selected to progress to the ASU Innovation Open finals are: 

  • Cloud Agronomics, presented by Jack Roswell and Oleksiy Zhuk from Brown University, is an aerial imaging and data analytics venture in the agri-tech sector that is dedicated to reducing food waste. The company collects ultra-high-definition images taken from manned aircraft to scout evidence of crop disease and advise farmers to act.
  • Infinite Cooling, presented by Maher Damak from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has technology to capture large amounts of pure water from the evaporative losses of cooling towers in power plants. Their cooling apparatus has already been installed at a power plant on the MIT campus, and other industry leaders are looking to incorporate their ideas to recycle water for reuse in their cooling systems.
  • SoleMate Solutions, presented by Surabhi Kalyan and Kristine Khieu from the University of California, San Diego, makes a smart-shoe insole that optimizes lower-extremity rehabilitation by measuring weight applied and providing real-time feedback. The smart sole can improve recovery time and help prevent serious complications that may occur after a patient is discharged.
  • Soundskrit, presented by Sahil Gupta from McGill University, is leveraging years of research in biomimetic microphone design to develop multi-directional Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) microphones that will significantly improve audio capture. This velocity microphone technology will dynamically track and listen to multiple inputs and improves years of stagnant technology in audio capture.
  • Strella Biotechnology, presented by Katherine Sizov from the University of Pennsylvania, makes biosensing platforms that measure fruit ripeness by measuring ethylene gas production and provide actionable data to packers and distributors to reduce food waste and increase fruit quality. The technology is already in use by apple packers in Washington state and Pennsylvania.

In February, the five teams will compete for $100,000, $25,000 and $10,000 prizes to help fund their ventures. Avnet, the title sponsor for the event, will supply the grand prize, while ON Semiconductor and Roambotics will fund the second- and third-place awards, respectively. The student ventures will be judged on multiple aspects of their business plan and product development, including market research, prototypes and website development.

The five-person judging panel included representatives from several of the event’s sponsors: Cody Friesen, CEO of Zero Mass Water; Therese Bassett, chief strategy, innovation and M&A officer at Avnet; Richard Diaz, global account director at ON Semiconductor; Scott Menor, CEO of Roambotics; and Gabriel Ramirez, senior director of business development at Sitewire.  

Other ASU Innovation Open sponsors include the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the Arizona Board of Regents, with additional support from the ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation program and the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Named the most innovative university in the United States for the fourth consecutive year by U.S. News and World Report, Arizona State University is uniquely positioned to co-host the growing competition, which embodies ASU’s commitment to valuing entrepreneurship in all of its forms.

For more information on the ASUio, visit winasu.io

Lanelle Strawder

Content Manager, Communications, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Venture Devils program helps ASU-affiliated startups soar

December 17, 2018

Software that speeds up speech therapy. A swimwear line for all body shapes. A device that lets patients do physical therapy at home. These were just a few of the startups pitched by student and community entrepreneurs during Demo Day, the biannual showcase for top Arizona State University-affiliated ventures to deliver investor-style pitches as they compete for nearly $200,000 in funding and support.

These teams were part of Venture Devils, a program in ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E+I) that aims to engage, mentor and fund founders who are actively working toward the development of a venture, whether for-profit, low-profit or nonprofit. Help In Hand App's Emerald Ochonogor celebrates her $1,000 eSeed award following the Venture Devils Demo Day awards ceremony at 1951 @ SkySong, Nov. 30, 2018. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

As part of Venture Devils, founders may receive direct access to funding opportunities and venture development spaces such as 1951 @ SkySong. Named for the year Scottsdale was incorporated, 1951 @ SkySong is a coworking space that combines vibrant 1950s decor with the latest collaboration and communication technologies.

“While our support for entrepreneurs isn’t based on place-based strategies, we have found that spaces like 1951 are powerful in bringing people together, whether for events like Demo Days or community workshops, or for the day-to-day collisions that happen and are driven by the people who come here to work on their individual ventures, collectively,” said Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at ASU.

“ASU is proud to be fostering an environment that enables others to be even more successful than they could be on their own,” Choi said.

ASU Venture Devils have access to coworking space, such as 1951 @ SkySong. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

A recent success emerging from 1951 @ SkySong is Sensagrate, a five-person startup that is developing an infrastructure-to-vehicle communication platform that provides data for human-driven and autonomous vehicles to foster safer interaction. Sensagrate was among the teams that presented at Demo Day.

“Being a part of Venture Devils and having a coworking space allowed us to create a space where we connect with entrepreneurs and receive valuable feedback and knowledge sharing through our mentors to help us grow our venture,” said Darryl Keeton, Sensagrate founder and president.

Sensagrate recently created the Safer and Smarter Arizona Roadway Initiative to build more efficient roadways by fostering connected and automated vehicle (CAV) development and deployment corridors in southern Arizona. The project recently won first place at the 2018 Smart Infrastructure Challenge and will receive up to $10 million in funding.

Winning the challenge “was pretty breathtaking,” Keeton said. “If you put your mind to something knowing you’re working to save lives, people will actually gravitate toward that and be supportive.”

daryl keeton
Darryl Keeton, founder and president of Sensagrate, a startup that participated in ASU's Venture Devils program. Sensagrate's Safer and Smarter Arizona Roadway Initiative recently won up to $10 million in funding at the 2018 Smart Infrastructure Challenge.

The Venture Devils program is available to new or existing startup teams that have at least one current ASU student as a key founder, who can be either an undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral or part-time student enrolled in any ASU in-person or online program or course. Greg Duffley, an ASU senior majoring in business administration, is a cofounder and software engineer for Sensagrate.

Venture Devils is also open to ASU faculty and staff founders and to community-based entrepreneurs affiliated with an ASU community-focused venture development program.

Founders must apply to become Venture Devils, and applications are processed five times a year. Once selected, startups are matched with a dedicated venture mentor and receive exclusive access to opportunities to assist in their venture concepts.

So what’s next for Sensagrate? The company plans to expand and build a relationship with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s new Institute for Automatic Mobility. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, chief research and innovation officer and executive vice president of the ASU Knowledge Enterprise, will be the institute’s senior science adviser.

Keeton credits the Venture Devils program with helping them achieve their goals.

“One day, we hope to give back and support ASU Knowledge Enterprise in their startup and entrepreneur initiatives,” he said.

Want to become a Venture Devil? The next round of applications is due Dec. 31. Apply now.

Jean Clare Sarmiento

Communications Specialist , Biodesign Institute


ASU, Verizon expand collaboration to bridge digital divide

December 13, 2018

High school students in Phoenix used virtual reality to create Halo VR, a system that allows young hospital patients to virtually visit with their families and friends, anytime and anywhere.

Middle school students in Bristol, Pennsylvania, used a computer-aided-design tool, TinkerCad, to create a 3D model of a gender-neutral, LGBTQ-friendly restroom for their school. three high school students working on technology project ASU joins forces with Verizon to increase access to technology for under-resourced high schools. A new grant from Verizon will expand that program to include middle schools. Download Full Image

Middle school students in Las Cruces, New Mexico, developed a robot that identifies and collects litter on the streets of their community.

The Verizon Innovative Learning program for high schoolers trains educators throughout the country to teach design-thinking, innovation, entrepreneurship and STEM skills by collaborating with local businesses to solve real-world challenges through emerging technology.

Four years ago, Arizona State University joined forces with Verizon Innovative Learning, the education initiative of Verizon, to increase access to technology for under-resourced schools, an alliance that turned students’ creations into reality. The pursuit began with four U.S. high schools, a grant from Verizon, ASU’s expertise in entrepreneurship and innovation, and a shared vision of bridging the digital divide. 

Since then, that shared vision has grown into a multi-year endeavor, thanks to a newly awarded grant from the Verizon Foundation, which will allow the program to expand to more than 300 under-resourced middle schools from across the country. 

“ASU and Verizon share a like-minded vision of what the future can be and what social access and equity look like,” said Ji Mi Choi, ASU associate vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation. “What started off as a pilot project with just four schools in 2014 has now grown to a national project with an investment from Verizon through ASU.”

“Through this work, we try to equip students with the tools and knowledge necessary to become creators, not just consumers, of technology,” said Katie Clemens, ASU director of youth entrepreneurship. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen students create everything from an app that helps undocumented students navigate scholarship opportunities to a virtual reality system that provides patients in hospitals with the ability to visit family and friends anytime.”

The new grant will build on the original program but will include middle schools, not just high schools, throughout the United States.

“Verizon proposed reaching out to students earlier while they were in middle school,” Choi explained. “So they piloted a middle school program starting with just two schools.”

Middle schools in the program will have access to a virtual course that will lead students through the process of harnessing emerging technology, like virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and the design thinking process to create solutions for societal challenge.

Verizon will be providing students with access to the latest technology while ASU will be implementing the programs by providing training and curriculum for teachers through a blended learning approach.

“Middle school is a time when students usually become disengaged, whether it’s hormones, what’s going on in their lives or their parents taking a step back,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of corporate social responsibility at Verizon. “When you consider under-resourced students, we felt that we could make a difference in middle school, and teach them how to be creative, how to collaborate and help them develop the skills that will be integral to their success both today and in the increasingly tech-driven economy of tomorrow.”

“This is a collaborative relationship that has really grown over the last four years,” Choi said. “We’re so pleased to be supporting Verizon in this shared mission. We’re grateful that Verizon has this vision and that they trust us to make the vision come to life.”

Communications Specialist, Knowledge Enterprise Development

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Personal journeys lead ASU entrepreneurs to success at Demo Day

Innovative ASU startups win thousands in cash investments at Demo Day.
December 2, 2018

Startups created by the ASU community win thousands for technology, devices, social programs

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2018 here.

Everyone who launches a startup dreams of the big payoff, but it all begins with a way to make life better. And for many entrepreneurs in the Arizona State University community, that journey is personal.

A man who has dealt with stuttering his entire life created a software platform that could radically change the way speech therapists work. A student who could never find a swimsuit to fit her curvy figure started a new brand. A painful ankle break sustained in a dirt-bike crash prompted a team to develop a more efficient physical-therapy machine.

They were among dozens of ASU-affiliated startups that won nearly $200,000 in investment funding at the Demo Day entrepreneurship competition on Friday. The projects are part of Venture Devils, a program in the Office of Entrepreneurship + Innovation at ASU that provides space, mentorship and access to funding to ASU students, faculty, staff or community members. More than 90 ASU-affiliated teams pitched their ventures to a panel of judges at the daylong event, held at SkySong in Scottsdale. There were 10 funding competitions, with some teams winning in more than one.

 Some of the startups want to improve the way therapists can help people.

ASU grad student Ilya Skolkov pitches Audiolex, a specialized microphone and software system that analyzes speech, at Demo Day. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU grad student Ilya Skolkov and alumnus Patrick Kennedy won $10,000 for Audiolex, a specialized microphone and software system that analyzes speech. Currently, therapists record patients’ speech and then manually transcribe the results in a special phonetic system, which takes about 90 minutes and is about 70 percent accurate. Audiolex uses artificial intelligence algorithms to reduce the time and increase accuracy to 90 percent, said Skolkov, who has dealt with stuttering his entire life.

“Speech pathologists are paid case by case, so they can now have better treatment and treat more patients,” said Skolkov, who is pursuing a master’s degree in business analytics. He estimates that Audiolex will save pathologists 480 hours per year.

The team is running a clinical trial on Audiolex and hopes to bring it market in 2020.

Garrett Murphy (left) and Luis Castillo describe their Murphy Mobility Device to the judges at Demo Day. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Luis Castillo, who is graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering this month, partnered with Garrett Murphy, who invented the Murphy Mobility Device after healing improperly from a broken ankle.

“My experience through physical therapy led to my passion to help people with this injury and the development of this device,” said Murphy, who previously won the Poder competition and then joined with Castillo.

The device allows patients to perform a traditional physical therapy exercise at home, without supervision from a therapist. A sensor measures range of motion in the patient and stores the information in the cloud, where therapists can access it and modify the routine.

Murphy Mobility Device won $6,000 total in the competition, including $1,000 from the Global Sport Institute at ASU, and Castillo also won $1,000 for his other startup, Speedy Castillo, a removable rim cover that improves bicycle aerodynamics.

Two recent MBA graduates realized they could launch a startup to not only address a need but to boost other businesses. Knot-ed offers a monthly beauty box subscription for black women. Drawing from black-owned businesses, each Knot-Box contains enough products, tools and accessories for women to create three new hairstyles for less than $40.

“A new hairstyle can make you feel like you rule the world,” said Leandres Christopher, who formed Knot-ed with Ambra Jordan in April, a month before they both received their MBAs at ASU.

“For black women, it’s a bit more complicated,” Christopher said, noting that beauty-supply retailers typically devote only a small portion of store space to products for black women, despite the fact that black women spend nine times more on hair and beauty than any other demographic.

“The buying power is there but American retail has foolishly ignored this audience,” she told the judges. Other subscription beauty boxes for black women are product-based and don’t include accessories or tutorials by natural-hair influencers. Christopher said the timing is right for their idea because black women are increasingly foregoing hair-straightening chemicals in favor of natural styles.

Phoenix-based Knot-Ed, which hopes to launch widely by March and eventually offer customizable boxes, won $1,000.

Demi George, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism, pitched her startup, Hourglass Swimwear, at Demo Day on Friday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

For many of the winners at Demo Day, a few thousand dollars can be sufficient to advance them to the next level. Demi George won $6,000, which will be enough for her to produce samples for her venture, Hourglass Swimwear, a line of swimsuits for curvy bodies.

“I always had confidence issues because I couldn’t find anything that fit,” said George, who pitched Hourglass Swimwear for only the second time at Demo Day. She is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism.

“I came up with a new size invention for in-between sizes that is for a pear, an apple, if you’re top heavy, bottom heavy, an hourglass,” she said. “This funding will complete my samples to bring to my retailers, who are so interested in this product.”

Some of the winners are nonprofit ventures. Direct Aid for Homeless was founded by Michelle Patterson, an undergraduate majoring in social work who has worked on the streets with people who are unsheltered since she was 16 years old.

“A lot of the individuals are just down on their luck and need someone to be there and remind them that they’re people and life doesn’t have to be like that and there are services out there,” said Patterson, who won $1,000 to develop a website.

Cecile Shell, a student in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, is working to start an athlete-development nonprofit called Keep the F.A.I.T.H. She won $1,000 from the Global Sport Institute Venture Challenge at Demo Day. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Keep the F.A.I.T.H. is a program to teach life skills to young athletes through a curriculum that can be offered by schools. Founded by Cecile Shell, a student in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the venture won $1,000.

“We’ll focus not just on academics, but we’ll implement financial literacy and identity development,” Shell said. “We want you to know that you have more to offer society.”

Some of the winners have been at work on their ventures for years and have already won tens of thousands of dollars in previous competitions. Hoolest Performance Technologies, which makes an earbud device to block anxiety by stimulating the vagus nerve, won $15,000. The idea was invented by Nicholas Hool, a biomedical engineering graduate student who suffered from performance anxiety while he was a nationally competitive golfer in high school.

Many of the winners are now finalists in their competitions, challenged with growing their ventures and competing for grand prizes at the next Demo Day in April.

“At Entrepreneurship and Innovation, we decided to put ourselves in your shoes,” said Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU.

“If we are going to ask you to refine your product, understand your market, talk to your customers, understand where you’re creating value, go out and pitch for your money and hustle every single day for your startups, then we needed to put our money and our feet where you are.”

Choi said that the entrepreneurship support team at ASU has brought in $27 million in external funding, drawing $17 million of that just in the last six months.

“This self-efficacy, that you can actually take an idea and start a company and hire people and bring in revenue and have an impact in your community, is such a significant empowerment,” she said.

“That’s what we’re trying to bring to as many people at ASU as possible.”

Top photo: Leandres Christopher, who earned an MBA at ASU last spring, pitches the venture she co-founded, Knot-ed, to the judges at Demo Day. Her beauty-box subscription startup will support black-owned businesses. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


ASU, UNSW students innovate to create zero waste

ASU team takes top prize at PLuS Alliance Circular Economy ResourCE Hack

October 29, 2018

Students from opposite sides of the world found themselves competing on a unified front to create solutions to divert waste from landfills and drive new businesses.

A diverse group of 70 interdisciplinary students at Arizona State University and UNSW Sydney created teams at their respective universities as they took part in the inaugural PLuS Alliance Circular Economy ResourCE Hack. The innovation hack was designed to find zero-waste alternatives for transitioning to a circular economy. The winning team from each institution was then judged by an international panel of experts to determine an overall “world champion.” Teams of ASU students created circular economy solutions for waste. A diverse group of interdisciplinary students at Arizona State University created teams to take on counterparts at UNSW Sydney in the inaugural PLuS Alliance Circular Economy ResourCE Hack. Download Full Image

The grand prize was awarded to ASU’s top team, Farmers’ Friend, composed of Jacob Bethem (PhD, sustainability), Andrew John De Los Santos (MS, sustainability) and Sudhanshu Biyani (MS, mechanical engineering). Their solution to reduce food waste involved developing an app connecting micro farmers in developing countries to consumers at places like schools, programs for the elderly, nongovernmental organizations or restaurants using a guaranteed pricing model. The team plans to apply for ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation’s Venture Devils program in January.

“During my travels in 2016, I overheard some people talking about how perfectly good-to-consume mangoes were being thrown away during peak harvest,” said Biyani. “When I read up on it later, I was astounded to learn the extent of post-harvest food loss India suffers from year on year.”

“When thinking about ideas for our pitch, we kept coming back to the issue of food waste, since it can be approached at various points in its life cycle,” said De Los Santos. “I would love to see our idea come to fruition because this app has the potential to reach developing countries, such as the Philippines, where most of my family lives.”

Between Oct. 19-21, the students tested and pitched multiple new solutions focused on reducing food waste, shifting consumer behavior, phasing out single-use plastics and construction and deconstruction waste mitigation. The broad range of topic areas demonstrated the reach of the waste crisis and echoed the need for all industries to embrace more transformational strategies.

The winning ideas from ASU and UNSW Sydney were judged by Paul Ramadge, managing director of the PLuS Alliance; Richard Holden, lecturer at the UNSW Business School; and Raj Buch, director of sustainability practice for ASU International Development. The winning team will receive $2,000 and support from both universities to build their prototype and further develop skills to drive real change in the waste epidemic.

The ASU hack was organized by the RISN Incubator, an ASU-based business accelerator designed to help startups and entrepreneurs take their circular economy-focused enterprises to market. Initially funded through a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the RISN Incubator is operated by the ASU Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service with support from ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation. In its first year, the RISN Incubator has fostered 13 ventures that have created 30 full- or part-time jobs, generated $3.15 million in revenues and raised $1.345 million in capital.

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives


ASU-based technologies continue to flood the market, with a boost from Skysong Innovations

October 22, 2018

In 2018, researchers at Arizona State University disclosed 285 inventions to Skysong Innovations, the university’s exclusive technology transfer organization. This record number of disclosures allowed Skysong Innovations to achieve new benchmarks in technology commercialization, with 123 U.S. patents issued, 78 license and option agreements signed and 17 new startups launched.

“By every metric, Skysong Innovations has built a tech transfer organization that stands as a leader among the top research institutions,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, executive vice president and chief research and innovation officer of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “There is simply no better university anywhere for researchers with ideas that can change the world.” skysong SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, is one of the premier economic engines in the Valley. Download Full Image

All this activity is generating substantial local economic impact. Recently, the Seidman Research Institute examined ASU’s tech transfer impact between 2016 and 2018. As a result of the operations of Skysong Innovations and 40 ASU-linked companies, Arizona’s economy gained a cumulative:

  • $402.8 million in gross state product
  • $271.6 million in labor income
  • 4,152 job-years
  • $36.4 million in state and local tax revenues

In total, the cumulative economic impacts of these entities is projected to exceed $1 billion by 2022.

Patent powerhouse

The 123 issued U.S. patents almost doubled the number achieved at ASU as recently as 2016. A new report by the U.S. National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association now places ASU in the top 20 of all universities worldwide for U.S. patents awarded. ASU jumped 13 spots in the new rankings, ahead of Columbia University, University of Washington and Duke University. Other universities ranked alongside ASU in the top 20 include MIT, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard and Caltech.

“The rate at which ASU is producing high-quality innovations is a testament to both the caliber of the university’s knowledge enterprise and the success of our technology transfer model, which fast-tracks research from lab benches to commercial application,” said Augie Cheng, CEO of Skysong Innovations, which manages ASU’s technology portfolio.

ASU startups continue to attract venture funding

ASU’s track record of producing and promoting successful startups now extends more than a decade. In FY18, ASU-linked companies received over $50.5 million in total venture funding, bringing the total amount of funding raised by ASU-linked startups to almost three-quarters of a billion dollars.

To help other startups address their capital needs, Skysong Innovations launched a new acceleration program for ASU spinouts in FY18. All startups in the program go through a 14-week professional mentorship program supported by the office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (part of Knowledge Enterprise Development) and the ASU Venture Devils. Up to six startups may also be selected for a $20,000 seed investment, with the potential for one startup to be awarded an additional $30,000 at the end of the acceleration period.

The ASU California Center continues to be the Southern California hub for Skysong Innovation’s entrepreneurial activities, providing exposure for ASU and facilitating meetings and contacts with the investment community. In FY18, Skysong Innovations and the Los Angeles Venture Association collaborated to host 19 events, including three SoCal Startup Mill pitch meetings. The SoCal Startup Mill has now grown to a network of 17 accomplished entrepreneurs and business executives.

In 2018, Skysong Innovations became the only nonlocal university member of the Alliance for SoCal Innovation. This group links innovators to capital and experienced operators throughout California.

The alliance’s launch event drew over 160 attendees, including more than 50 venture investors. A diverse blend of entrepreneurs, executives and innovators also came to connect with representatives of SoCal’s innovation centers and to learn how to access these emerging opportunities.

Of more than 90 university startup applicants, only four were selected to present, including the ASU startup Charlot Biosciences. Charlot, which develops novel cell-sorting equipment, is currently in negotiations with several Silicon Valley venture funds.

Center of health care innovation

A February paper published in the Nature journal of biotechnology detailed how the efforts of two researchers at the ASU Biodesign Institute are pioneering developments in “DNA origami”: lab-engineered, self-folding DNA nanostructures that can be programmed to fight cancer and other infectious diseases, radically transforming how medical therapies are delivered.

ASU has optioned its rights to the technology to a new startup company called Nanobot Biosciences, which is working to develop nano-sized robots that can navigate the human body through the bloodstream to deliver treatments.

Professors Yung Chang and Hao Yan’s research teams are now setting their sights on the groundbreaking potential their work might carry within and beyond the medical community. Their discoveries could generate unprecedented solutions for some of the most complex problems in nutrition, agriculture, biosustainability, energy and even defense.

In the realm of laboratory medicine, ASU’s 100th spinout company, Gemneo Bioscience, garnered acclaim when it won a Flinn Foundation Entrepreneurship Award this March. Gemneo’s platforms are directed to identifying patients’ idiosyncratic disease cell and immune cell “signatures” and generating profiles that recommend immunotherapies oriented toward each patient’s specific illness and immune system traits.

Two additional ASU-linked startups received FDA clearance for clinical applications. Endovantage simulates the effect endovascular implantations and subsequent blood flow changes will have in a patient’s body, aiding surgeons and medical-device manufacturers. NeoLight’s portable phototherapy beds are being used in the U.S. and developing countries to treat jaundice, which can be fatal in infants.