SEAS Wins Big in Venture Competition

An innovative process that turns local, organic waste into a high-demand usable resource and a new app that customizes drug recommendations for patients are first-place winners in this year’s Columbia Venture Competition.

CarboCycle, first-place winner in the Global Technology Challenge, has developed a Columbia-patented technology for converting organic wastes like food into lipids, or oils, for more sustainable consumer goods like soaps and cosmetics.


—Video courtesy of CarboCycle

Announced April 29 by Dean Mary C. Boyce at the #StartupColumbia Festival, CarboCycle and Droice have taken top honors in the Engineering-sponsored Global Technology Challenge and Technology Challenge tracks, respectively. CarboCycle will receive $35,000 in funding and Droice $25,000. In Global Technology, AshaO2 ($10,000) took second place and ShrutaCare ($5,000) came in third. In the Technology track, Predictiv Industries ($15,000) won second place and Ivy Spot ($10,000) third place.

Six finalist teams competed in the Technology Challenge and five in Global Technology. Both of the Engineering School-sponsored categories focus on startups or ideas that are tech driven, with those competing in the global challenge geared toward problems such as environmental challenges, health, sustainability, and disaster relief.

CarboCycle, which has already launched a major project in New York City, includes Shashwat Vajpeyi PhD’16, Tim Zeiske PhD’16GSAS, Melanie Valencia ’14MPH, and Kenneth Roe ’16SPS. The team has developed a Columbia-patented technology for converting organic wastes like food into lipids, or oils, for more sustainable consumer goods like soaps and cosmetics.

Global Technology second-place winner AshaO2 is developing a cost-effective oxygen concentrator that can operate at hospitals in the developing world that lack reliable electricity. Consisting of a pump and just five parts, the technology was developed by SEAS alums Vera Ho MS’16, Hetal Baman MS’17, and Tetsu Harimoto MS’17. ShrutaCare, developed by Anshul Gupta ’16SEAS and Manasvi Gupta ’15MBBS, is a subscription-based data-driven model correcting perverse incentives affecting primary health care in India.

The CarboCycle team poses with Dean Mary C. Boyce.
—Photo by Timothy Lee Photographers

Droice, a personalized drug prescription assistant developed by SEAS alums Aleksandr Makarov MS’17, Harshit Saxena MS’16, and Mayur Saxena PhD’18, matches potential prescriptions’ drug profile to patients’ health factors. Droice’s algorithm utilizes massive databases to customize each patient’s best treatment options and to avoid dangerous complications, and has been shown to cut problematic prescriptions by up to 80% in addition to saving physicians’ time.

Fellow winner in the Technology Challenge Predictiv Industries includes cofounders Berk Birand PhD’15, Jan Janak PhD’20, Alp Kucukelbir, and Ricardo Gezzi. The startup is aiming to bring modern statistics to the factory floor.

“The industrial sector generates very large amounts of data in the form of sensor readings, log messages, and more,” said Birand. “Most of this data is wasted and not being used for gaining insights and optimizing production. We are building a system that can aggregate this data and answer every question the factory personnel may have regarding their production … and build automated machine learning models that can predict issues in the factory, such as downtime caused by equipment failure, or lost production because of quality issues.”

IvySpot, cofounded by Madalina Ene BS’11, Patrick Han BS’11, Doug Hanlon, and Etta Hanlon, is developing a portable point-of-care product that detects and deactivates irritating poison ivy from the skin.

SEAS-led teams also dominated the Columbia Undergraduate Challenge. First place went to Parsegon, which includes cofounders Matthew Pregasen ’18SEAS, Sahir Jaggi ’17SEAS, and Anuke Ganegoda ’18CC. Parsegon has developed a new natural language processing algorithm that enables users to write math online without having to learn a coding language or using a slow drag-and-drop tool. Startup cerVIA by Engineering seniors Ritish Patnaik, Olachi Oleru, Jahrane Dale, and Stephanie Yang, and Auxcare by Matthieu Luigi Gavaudan ’17SEAS took second and third place, respectively.

In this year’s venture competition, more than 30 Columbia Engineering students, alumni, or affiliates comprised teams that made final pitches to judges in Davis Auditorium April 28. Finalists competed in one of the five different categories, including the #StartupColumbia Challenge, the Columbia Undergraduate Challenge, SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge, the Technology Challenge, and the Global Technology Challenge. Winners were announced live from the third annual #StartupColumbia Festival in Miller Theatre.

The festival, held April 28 to 29, kicked off with the Columbia Venture Competition. Cosponsored by Columbia Entrepreneurship, #StartupColumbia includes keynote speeches from the founders of Snapchat and Venmo, features talks on robotics and neuroscience startups, and spotlights Columbia food entrepreneurs.

The Columbia Venture Competition is in its eighth year. Originally sponsored by the Engineering School, the event has expanded through the years to include partners Columbia Entrepreneurship, Columbia College, and the School of International and Public Affairs.

—by Melanie A. Farmer and Jesse Adams


Updated: Apr. 29, 2016 

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