Entrepreneurship Blog

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: VisiPlate

VisiPlateLogo
Visiplate team

Team Leader:
Rui Jing Jiang, W’18
Team Members:
Adarsh Battu, W’18
Brandon Kao, ENG’18

2016-17 Y-Prize Winners

elevator pitch: VisiPlate is a nano-scale drainage implant to defend against blindness induced by open-angle glaucoma (OAG) by reducing intraocular pressure. It consists of a tube connected to a curved, ultrathin alumina nanoplate that is thinner, stronger, and more reliable than existing lines of defense.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
Our idea came from thinking of an application for the ultrathin plates provided in the 2017 Y-Prize Competition. We personally know people who suffer from open-angle glaucoma, and thought that this nanotechnology can effectively be used as an implant in the eye, where small variations in size can lead to large consequences.

How will your venture change the world?
VisiPlate will provide a life-changing product for patients with OAG, as it will prevent irreversible blindness in a long-term, cost-effective way. With glaucoma prevalence worldwide expected to reach nearly 80 million people within the next 3 years, we hope that VisiPlate will make a difference by protecting people’s vision all over the world.

Fun Facts:

  • Adarsh likes to make shirts
  • Rui Jing has The Halal Guys following her on Instagram
  • Brandon knows how to unicycle

Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: Twine

Twine team pic cropped

Team Leader:
Joseph Quan, WG’17
Team Member:
Nikhil Srivastava, WG’17

elevator pitch: Twine makes internal mobility seamless. Our algorithms recommend the best internal employees to fill open roles, helping companies boost retention and significantly reduce hiring costs by efficiently hiring from within.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?

Twine evolved from our side project, ClassmateMatch, which was a professional networking service to help people identify and meet the most relevant people in their organization. Our strategy was to sell this technology to large companies to build mentorship and networking programs.

After speaking to 30 potential customers (HR executives), we got consistent feedback to focus the matching technology on internal recruiting instead.

As we started learning more about this problem, over and over again, HR leaders we spoke to complained about the broken state of internal recruiting. We’ve put our prototype in the hands of recruiters at our current corporate client, who have called it the future of internal hiring.

How will your venture change the world?

Companies are fighting a war to attract top talent, spending billions to recruit the best external hires. Yet every year, the average Fortune 500 company loses $100M in undesirable, preventable employee turnover. And employees, especially millennials, are leaving their jobs faster than ever.

Twine helps employees build careers that grow with, not out of, their companies. By bringing efficiency to internal job markets, Twine unlocks a tremendous amount of value for both companies and employees.

Fun Facts:

  • Joseph once met Travis Kalanick at a bar and asked him about Uber.
  • Nikhil once walked around the entire island of Manhattan (32 miles).

Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: Splaced

Splaced Logo
Splaced team pic

Team Leader:
Emily Smith, WG’17

Team Members:
Ruchi Banka, WG’17
Jake Kramer, WG’17
Dan Norelli, WG’17

Matt Panas, WG’17
Trang Pham, WG’18

elevator pitch: Splaced is an innovative, online marketplace – the Airbnb of commercial space. We connect guests who need affordable, hourly, and on-demand spaces with hosting businesses who have unique but underutilized spaces.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
The idea for our venture came from Emily’s experiences as a Wharton student searching for a quiet, inspiring work spaces. Often, the available spaces were busy, noisy coffee shops or very expensive spaces catering to large groups. At the same time, from her work in the commercial real estate industry, Emily encountered many businesses whose high-rent spaces were unused for most of the business day. She recognized the opportunity for businesses to meet peoples’ space needs while recovering and monetizing the high cost of the business’ idle spaces.

How will your venture change the world?
Our venture will change the world by making more unique spaces available to the average person for living, working and collaborating. It will make the commercial real estate market more efficient and truly address pain points – affordable, hourly spaces for guests and maximum profitability for hosts.

Fun Facts:

  • Emily Smith is an encyclopedia of knowledge, who informed her parents when she was five years old that she wanted to work in real estate.
  • Ruchi Banka loves air activities. When she’s not serving as the calm negotiator that her “middle child” personality entails, Ruchi is out skydiving and hot air ballooning. Heads up!
  • Jake Kramer served in the U.S. Army. During his Army service, he was on their mixed martial arts (MMA) team, representing Colorado in the all-Army MMA tournament.
  • Dan Norelli loves beaches. On days when he’s not suited up as the director of financial planning and analysis at Trinity Real Estate, he is bumming out, we mean touristing, in charming Montauk, New York.
  • Matt Panas is an ardent admirer of the Oxford comma. It’s a small but significant aspect of his thorough, methodical thinking – a characteristic that he brings to analyzing people and problems.
  • Trang Pham is an avid mountain climber, who has scaled major summits in America, Europe, and Africa. Her fear of heights hasn’t stopped her from looking out at 20,000 feet above sea level.

Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: Slice Capital

Slice logo
Slice team photo

Team Leader:
Rohan Shah, ENG’19

Team Members:
Krish Dholakiya
Jeff Wang, C’17
Dan Stepanov

Christian Butts, W’18
Michael Raevsky, C’17, W’17
Parker Odrich

elevator pitch: Slice Capital is democratizing Venture Capital, by allowing everyday individuals to invest in pre-vetted startups at the tap of a button. They’re challenging the way that people think about equity crowdfunding, through their breakthrough low-minimum, mobile-first platform.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
From an early age, Rohan has been investing in various asset classes, from stocks to commodities to even Bitcoin (which is how he’s been able to bootstrap the company to this point). He’s also been very active in the hackathon scene ever since sophomore year of high school, which originally brought him into the startup scene. Eager to invest in the early stage companies he read about, he looked for a platform to do so, to no avail… thus, Slice Capital was born and the team was assembled!

How will your venture change the world?
Slice Capital will help provide much needed capital to companies that need it most and will offer unprecedented access to this brand new asset class to everyone, rather than to just the top 1%. Currently, the other 99% has over $30T in banking and brokerage accounts. However, by giving non-accredited investors the opportunity to allocate just 1% of their assets to equity crowdfunding, Slice will push an additional $300B into the Venture Capital space. This is more than 10x the total amount of funding allocated by professional investors in all of last year. Slice’s unique platform will allow thousands of new investors to help fund companies that have the power to make a dramatic impact on our collective future.

Fun Facts:

  • Rohan played Young Prince Zuko in Avatar The Last Airbender when he was 14 years old.
  • Krish was the youngest PennApps Fellow and has very strong ties to the Philly tech scene, even though he’s from Colorado.
  • Jeff is one of four quadruplets.
  • Dan never wears shoes while in the office – he either goes barefoot or wears bunny slippers.
  • Christian can speak Spanish and Swahili and has been singing in both languages since 4th grade!
  • Michael only has nine toes.
  • Parker has perfect pitch.

Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: RightAir

RightAir Logo
Right Air team pic

Team Leader:
Thomas Uhler, C’19, W’19

Team Members:
Jacob Brenner
Marek Swoboda
Perry Dubin
Michal Swoboda

elevator pitch: Severe COPD, popularly called emphysema, causes 2 million Americans to feel like they are suffocating every time they move around during the daily activities. RightAir creates a wearable device that relieves this terrible shortness of breath and allows COPD patients to engage in life again.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
In the Penn COPD clinic, most of our severe COPD patients constantly ask for any new treatment that will allow them to live their lives without the feeling of suffocation.

How will your venture change the world?
We will relieve the suffering of millions of Americans who feel like they are suffocating whenever they move around.

Fun Facts:

  • Thomas Uhler: My smooth baritone has led to many requests for me to cover Barry White’s classics.
  • Jacob Brenner, MD, PhD: Jake has done research on diseases affecting many different organs, including heart, brain, and even the anorectal canal.
  • Marek Swoboda, PhD: I was born and raised in Upper Silesia, a region of Poland that is largely German-speaking.
  • Perry Dubin, MD: My boyfriend is an actor on Broadway.
  • Michal Swoboda: My dad is also on this team, and working with him is actually really fun.

Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: Ride Health

Ride Health logo
Ride Health team pic - Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship Startup Challenge

Team Leader:
Sumun Khetpal, C’17/W’17
Team Members:
Imran Cronk, C’16
Vedant Thyagaraj, C’19/W’19

elevator pitch: Ride Health aims to improve to care for patients who face transportation barriers. In leveraging the application programming interfaces (APIs) of ride-sharing companies, our software enables providers to request rides for patients and bill these rides to payers.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
Our story began in an emergency department at a North Carolina hospital, where co-founder Imran Cronk was working as a volunteer. An elderly man had just been discharged on a rather large dose of medications. He seemed disoriented and did not have a ride home. He planned to walk around eight miles through the rain that night, but luckily, Imran drove the man to his house, safe and sound. This narrative rooted the motivation for Ride Health, and the business model itself sprung from a Wharton healthcare entrepreneurship class that Vedant and I took in the fall of 2015.

How will your venture change the world?
Our venture will revolutionize the lives of the 3.6 million Americans that miss their appointments due a lack of a ride. Ride Health represents the merger between a private innovation and a public need, and the tremendous role that technology will play in healthcare – especially in the integration of applications within the electronic medical records of patients. Ride Health will be a pioneer, and with it will come multiple other applications that improve care transitions and ultimately, improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes.

Fun Facts: Imran – I swing a tennis racket left-handed, but I bat right-handed; Vedant – I am a certified yoga instructor; Sumun – I have traveled to over 45 countries with my family.


Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: RevoLOOtion

RevoLootion logo
RevoLootion team pic - Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship Startup Challenge

Team Leader:
Nidhi Shah, WG’17
Team Member:
Swathi Sadagopan

elevator pitch: RevoLOOtion provides rapid-drying, composting toilets to lower middle class urban families in high density informal settlements that currently rely on unhygienic and poorly lit shared latrines.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
Both the founders have had bad experiences with sanitation. Nidhi volunteered with a toilets startup and used the experience to think about creating her own startup. Swathi had been doing the same. When they both met, they decided to join forces and start a revolootion.

How will your venture change the world?
Our mission is to change the way the world does sanitation, making it more sustainable, environmental and delightful, one toilet at a time.

Fun Facts: Nidhi has a black belt in karate. Swathi is a South Indian classical dancer.


Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Launch Pad: Rob Sadow W’08, Founder of Scoop

Scoop green

Hate your commute? Scoop, founded by Rob Sadow W’08, has a solution for you: a “fully automated carpooling solution for commuters.”

Scoop partners with enterprises, office parks, and cities to make it easier for coworkers and neighbors to share trips back and forth to the office.

Here’s how it works: You book your carpool trips one way at a time, based on your needs. Why one way? Rob explains: “By unbundling it so that you can book one way at a time we make it possible so you can actually go to work with one person and come home with somebody else, and so it unlocks flexibility in your schedule so you don’t feel locked in to having to go or commute on somebody else’s time.”

And if for some reason Scoop can’t match you in a return trip that day, “you can take public transit, or a taxi, or another alternative and we’ll actually cover the cost of the alternative to make sure you can get home.”

Listen to Karl Ulrich and Rob talk through more of the nitty-gritty of putting together a carpooling app that works, plus, get a sense of how being a consultant can be great preparation for founding a company. Rob was with Bain & Company for six and a half years, and throughout the interview, Karl noted Rob’s impressively thorough analyses of the problems and possible solutions.

Read more Launch Pad: Rob Sadow W’08, Founder of Scoop

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: rePurpose

Repurpose logo

Team Leader:
Robert Dowling, EE’18/ENG’18/W’18
Team Member:
Peter Wang Hjemdahl, W’18

elevator pitch: rePurpose is a for-profit social enterprise that empowers marginalized trash pickers in urban slums by providing them the crucial processing equipment to kickstart mini-ventures, tripling their incomes and transforming them into micro-entrepreneurs and central players in the recycling supply chain.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
Our business idea spun out of the Regional Finals of Hult Prize 2016, a $1M social entrepreneurship competition hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative, responding to the call of action by Bill Clinton to double the income of 10M slum dwellers worldwide by 2021.

How will your venture change the world?
rePurpose is game-changing because our business model of incubating mini-ventures will triple the income of 10 million trash pickers living in extreme poverty worldwide, thereby restoring their dignities, life prospects, and ultimately happiness.

Fun Facts:

  • Robert has piloted a nuclear submarine
  • Peter went mountain biking off the Death Road in Bolivia

Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: PolarNews

PolarNewsLogoRed

Team Leader:
Davis Filippell, WG’18
Team Member:
Amelia Bell, G’18/WG’18
Matt Alexader, G’18/WG’18

elevator pitch: PolarNews is a media platform for educated millennials to break their news bubble with digital feeds that pair two polarized views on one screen.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
Brexit and the US Presidential election showed us that polarized digital media is a problem worth fixing! We sent our first PolarNews edition to 6 subscribers on October 6th and the traction we gained early inspired us to build this platform.

How will your venture change the world?
We intend to change the way people across the world engage with news and media by showcasing two sides of every topic, an impact which will build a community with greater understanding and empower people to think for themselves.

Fun Facts: Davis writes folk music, Matt once went on an archaeology dig in France, and Mimi is a very good knitter.


Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!