Bee Well. Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Spotlight: Combplex Aims to Help Beekeepers Save the Hives

Highlights of student-led ventures participating in the LaunchPad Lift Cohort, part of the Blackstone LaunchPad® powered by Techstars® entrepreneurship program

It’s getting harder each day to be a honeybee.

Buzzing around pollinating our global food production is the fun part, but on the other side, these insects are fighting for their lives and dying at an alarming rate due to pesticide exposure, novel pathogens, and parasites called Varroa destructor—a giant tick that feeds on bees, spreading deadly viruses that can kill or greatly weaken colonies.

This increasing demise of colonies matters to humans because one-third of all food grown in the U.S. is dependent on pollination from bees. And the majority of bees responsible for pollinating these domestic crops—2.5 million colonies—come from managed beehives, according to California’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plan. In the last 10 years beekeepers have reported up to 40 percent of annual colony losses, according to the Bee Informed Partnership.

In the effort to help beekeepers, two Ph.D. students from Cornell University, Hailey Scofield and Nathan Oakes, leveraged their honeybee research, data science, and electrical engineering expertise to assist colony managers and develop a new approach to fighting parasites.

Combplex is a smart frame that helps eliminate parasites and remotely monitors bee health in a hive. Their new approach aims to eliminate the harmful Varroa destructor parasites within the hive without the need to use harmful chemicals traditionally used against these bee killers.

“We are in the prototyping stage. We are in the process of launching a field trial in South Carolina in April before a large-scale field test with commercial beekeepers in up-state New York over the summer and fall,” said Hailey and Nathan.

Combplex was selected for the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a 10-week personalized mentorship-driven program for student-led ventures, which comes with a $10,000 grant upon completion of the program to help founders move their businesses forward.

Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars has been so influential in expanding our horizons as founders,” said Hailey and Nathan. “As scientists we tend to focus on the product, research, and vision. The LaunchPad program has provided personalized mentorship to help us build out aspects of the business, such as our brand, team, and the steps we need to take to reach our goals.”

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Manage Anxiety On-The-Go: Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Spotlight on CALM Neurotech Device

Highlights of student-led ventures participating in the LaunchPad Lift Cohort, part of the Blackstone LaunchPad® powered by Techstars® entrepreneurship program.

These days, Americans are feeling more anxious than ever. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1 percent of the population each year.” Without treatment or engaging in stress-reducing activities, feelings of anxiety can impact quality of life, job performance, and even your health.

A student-led venture from Temple University’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program has developed CALM, which uses neurotechnology to treat anxiety. CALM (Compact Anxiolytic Lull Mechanism) is a portable, non-invasive device that uses pulses of vibrations to alter the brain waves that influence anxiety, and help people regain control of stress levels

When a person feels intense stress or anxiety, she places CALM behind her ear, at the base of her skull. From there, CALM sends pulses of vibrational stimulation to the inner ear through bone conduction, which allows the brain to receive the signals. These pulses influence the user’s brain waves, creating a calm brain state, with wave patterns similar to those created by relaxation and meditation.

Daniel Couser, Founder of CALM, was inspired to develop this device for a friend who suffered from anxiety disorder. He saw first hand how this mental illness can impact a person’s life.

“Anxiety can be debilitating.  Being close to the issue urged me explore new and different ways to approach anxiety, resulting in the development of CALM,” Daniel said. “CALM provides a fast acting tool that can be used by individuals to better manage anxiety at home, work, school, or anywhere else that a person may go.”

Daniel reports that they are planning to conduct proof of concept testing in the first quarter of 2019, in clinics with individuals that suffer from anxiety disorders. This preliminary research will help them further develop the device, better understand the needs of people struggling with anxiety, and formulate next steps for research.

CALM was selected for the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a 10-week personalized mentorship-driven program for student-led ventures from the United States and Ireland, as well as a $10,000 grant to help move their business forward.

“Through the Launchpad Lift Cohort, I am looking forward to connecting with high-caliber mentors and refining the execution strategy of the business, as well as learning how to run an efficient business,” Daniel said. “Being able to learn from entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses as well as the founders from the other companies in the cohort will help CALM to excel, and assist us in our mission to provide a new tool to help manage anxiety.”

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Looking Good! Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Spotlight: Petitas Los Angeles Empowers Women One Stitch at a Time

In December 2018, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars announced the creation of LaunchPad Lift, a 10-week program for top performing student-led ventures. The cohort was chosen from across the LaunchPad global network and represents a diverse group of businesses that span industries. LaunchPad Lift will help bridge the gap between the programming available on each college campus and the next steps these student-led ventures need for their companies.

Highlights of student-led ventures participating in the LaunchPad Lift Cohort, part of the Blackstone LaunchPad® powered by Techstars® entrepreneurship program

Searching the aisles of a teen clothing section for appropriate work clothes that fit well is an exercise in frustration for petite women.

Chelsea LaFerla knows this all too well. Walking into her first business school mixer at USC, she was faced with a room full of men dressed in neatly pressed and perfectly tailored suits while her outfit was a dress from the Nordstrom teen department. Her confidence took a heavy blow, and she began to feel out of place.

That was the moment she decided to change fashion for petite women.

“I never wanted to feel that way again,” Chelsea said. Her response was to found Petitas Los Angeles, a fashion line made by petites, for the fast-paced petite woman.

Growing up, Chelsea was always around textiles. She came from a long line of Italian tailors and seamstresses. Some of her favorite childhood memories were making dresses with her grandmother, a wedding dress designer. So she knew clothes—and the impact they could have on a person’s self confidence, or on how they were perceived.  

“I remember walking into the fabric store with my grandma and spending hours choosing just the right fabric and trim for my newest design. She’d inspect my sewing, and inevitably make me un-sew and re-sew each garment. I loved the process,” said Chelsea. “It was my grandmother who taught me that every stitch matters. It’s that same quality that we bring to Petitas Los Angeles.”

Chelsea wants Petitas to empower petite women, 5’4” and under, to be “clothed in confidence” through uniquely tailored, high-end garments. The clothes will be made ethically and sustainably in the United States, using premium, hand-sourced fabrics.

Petitas Los Angeles was selected for the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a 10-week personalized mentorship-driven program for student-led ventures, which comes with a $10,000 grant upon completion of the program to help founders move their businesses forward.

“Petitas LA’s acceptance into Blackstone’s LaunchPad powered by Techstars has been such a godsend. The mentorship, training, and support came at just the right time!” said Chelsea. “Building a business can easily get discouraging without the right help.  Fortunately, we’ve had the opportunity to work with incredible mentors, who’ve been in our position and know how to get to the other side of building a successful company.”

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Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Spotlight: NUA Surgical Aim to Improve the Safety of Cesarean Deliveries

Highlights of student-led ventures participating in the LaunchPad Lift Cohort, part of the Blackstone LaunchPad® powered by Techstars® entrepreneurship program

NUA Surgical Team

When a baby is born, everyone hopes for a smooth and safe delivery. But that doesn’t always happen. In cases involving a cesarean (C-section) delivery, whether planned or emergency, there are risks involved for the mother and baby.

 NUA Surgical, a researcher-led venture from NUI Galway’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program, is developing an obstetrics product that improves the safety of the mother undergoing a cesarean delivery.

In a C-section delivery, doctors remove the baby from the mother’s lower abdomen. In the medical journal The Lancet, a recent study estimated that globally “29.7 million births occurred through cesarean section in 2015,” almost double the number from 2000. In the U.S., C-sections account for 32 percent of all deliveries, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

As with all major surgery, delivery by C-section can result in complications. Post cesarean, mothers face a risk of surgical site infection (SSI). SSIs are reported to be the “second most common health care-associated infection in Europe and the US” according to the World Health Organization

Depending on various factors, SSIs following c-section can occur up to 20 percent of the time, causing severe pain, discomfort, even death to an otherwise healthy new mother. SSIs are also becoming a major cost burden on the healthcare system, according to the BJOG, an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the NCBI.

NUA Surgical wants to change this, and make C-sections safer for mothers and better for doctors. “Our novel medical device will be used by physicians during surgery and is intended to improve the quality of surgery for both the doctor and patient,” said Founder of NUA Surgical, Barry McCann. “The needs and requirements of physicians, patients and hospitals are all vital ingredients into our device design, and we are committed to delivering innovation that will positively impact these key stakeholders.”

The team at NUA Surgical have over 50 years of combined industry experience covering commercial, technical and design development requirements. Barry McCann is a previous BioInnovate Ireland Fellow and founded NUA Surgical based on the unmet clinical need discovered during the fellowship; Marie-Therese Maher is an engineer and project manager who spent fourteen years in Research & Development with Medtronic; And Padraig Maher is an engineer with over twenty years’ experience in the medical device industry and has a passion for resolving technical challenges. They were awarded a Commercialisation grant from Enterprise Ireland and the European Commission, and aim to spin out of NUI Galway in 2020.

The team is in prototype phase and conducting some preclinical trials and testing in preparation for regulatory submissions to the US and EU.

NUA Surgical was selected for the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a 10-week personalized mentorship-driven program for student-led ventures, which comes with a $10,000 grant upon completion of the program to help move their business forward.

“The Cohort is a great opportunity for NUA Surgical. With the help of Techstars, we aim to expand our network of advisors, key opinion leaders and potential investors,” said Barry, Marie-Therese and Padraig. “Our team have set clear objectives that we wish to achieve during the Cohort. We’re focused on activities that can be accomplished within the specific timeframe, and ones that require the assistance of the Techstars worldwide network of mentors.”

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Preserving Lives: Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Spotlight on Lazarus, Tech for Law Enforcement

Highlights of student-led ventures participating in the LaunchPad Lift Cohort, part of the Blackstone LaunchPad® powered by Techstars® entrepreneurship program

Lazarus founders Ben Omonira and Elise Hackney.

Technology companies and innovators are taking a lead on developing less lethal devices for law enforcement to reduce fatal police encounters.

In July 2016, a Dallas ambush inspired Lazarus founder Ben Omonira to provide first responders with an alternative method of stopping a threat while preserving the life. Lazarus, a student-led venture from Texas A&M’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program, is currently in prototype phase for the development of a less lethal projectile which could help law enforcement safely and effectively deal with threats, while preserving lives.  

“First responders are actively looking for new technology and methods to stop a threat without losing a life,” say Lazarus founders Ben Omonira and Elise Hackney.

“Our company’s number one priority is to give law enforcement agents the tools they need while preserving lives. We do this by bridging the gap between lethal and non-lethal options.”

Lazarus is in the process of securing a patent for their solution and working to produce an MVP by May 2020.

Lazarus was selected for the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a 10-week personalized mentorship-driven program for student-led ventures, which comes with a $10,000 grant upon completion of the program to help founders move their businesses forward.

“We operate in an industry that deals with important but difficult topics, and want to create a brand that is seen as positive and focused on safety – both for law enforcement and society at large.  We are excited about the opportunities to learn through Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars” as we continue to grow our business.”

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Get Help Faster: Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars Spotlight on My Wellbeing, a Therapist-Client Matching Service

Highlights of student-led ventures participating in the LaunchPad Lift Cohort, part of the Blackstone LaunchPad® powered by Techstars® entrepreneurship program

Sometimes we all just need to talk out our worries, stresses, and challenges with someone who is trained to help process the curve balls of life. Unfortunately, most people don’t seek professional care because it’s hard to find the right therapist-client fit.

To solve this problem, My Wellbeing, a student-led venture from New York University’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program, developed a therapist-client matching service that takes the stress out of finding the right mental health professional and improves retention of care.

Clients answer a five-minute questionnaire identifying their needs and what they’re looking for in a therapist. Within 24 hours, My Wellbeing sends a match and encourages them to schedule a free phone consultation with the therapist. Clients have the option to book the therapist or request another match.

“Ninety four percent of individuals who speak with their therapist by phone express a positive match and schedule an in-person appointment,” says Alyssa Petersel, My Wellbeing founder.

During her Masters in Social Work program, Alyssa discovered that finding mental health services that matched a client’s need was a growing problem, and when a client didn’t feel compatible with a therapist they would cease care.

“One in four Americans are in need of therapy but don’t seek care because they don’t know where to begin. Of those who do go to therapy, over half drop out prematurely because they don’t feel a strong connection with their therapist,” Alyssa explained.

Since the company launched in August 2017, My Wellbeing facilitated over 3,500+ matches. Therapists can sign up to be in the network and matched with clients. My Wellbeing is currently offered in the New York City area, with plans to expand in the near future.

My Wellbeing was selected for the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a 10-week personalized mentorship-driven program from Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars for student-led ventures from the United States and Ireland, which comes with a $10,000 grant to help move the business forward.

“We have benefited from the perspective and generosity of countless mentors, without whom we would not be where we are today. We look forward to participating in this exciting new community with Techstars, Blackstone, our mentors and advisors, and our colleagues in our cohort, to #givefirst and grow together,” said Alyssa.

Learn more about Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars HERE

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LaunchPad Lift Spotlight: Shower Stream Aims to Reduce Water Waste, One Shower at a Time

Highlights of student-led ventures participating in the LaunchPad Lift Cohort, part of the Blackstone LaunchPad® powered by Techstars® entrepreneurship program

Early in the morning, you wander into the bathroom and turn on the shower to full hot. While you’re sipping coffee and waiting for the water to warm, gallons of wasted water are flowing down the drain.

In a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, 70 percent of bathers leave their showers unattended after it’s warm, resulting in $100 “water warm-up waste” per shower per year. For hotel franchises, this waste equals $30M in expenses per year. Across the U.S., this problem could waste two trillion gallons of water, one trillion kWh of energy and $50B annually.

In response to this “shower water warm-up waste,” a student-led venture from UT Austin’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program developed Shower Stream, a smart shower head adapter that uses motion sensors to release warm water when the person enters the shower. The company aims to reduce water and energy waste without disturbing the customer’s experience and provide analytics on the savings.

Shower Stream’s motion-activated shower head adapter simply screws on behind the existing shower head without disrupting the bathing experience. Through their dashboard, hotel owners can review analytics about their water and energy savings in real-time. Shower Stream states customers receive a one year breakeven and 400 percent, five-year ROI by using their device.

Shower Stream was selected for the inaugural LaunchPad Lift Cohort, a 10-week personalized mentorship-driven program for student-led ventures from the United States and Ireland, as well as a $10,000 grant to help move their business forward.

“Being a part of the LaunchPad Lift Cohort is a very exciting achievement for Shower Stream. Working with world-class mentors from Techstars and gaining access to their impeccable network of successful entrepreneurs and investors will be a huge boon for us,” said Ian Howard and Greg Floyd, Co-founders of Shower Stream. “During the program, we will levy the huge amount of resources provided by Blackstone and Techstars to improve our customer value proposition and secure new partnerships that will allow us to expand quickly in the future.”

Learn more about LaunchPad HERE

Follow our LaunchPad Lift Cohort series where we will be highlighting each student-led venture, stay tuned!