Four ventures led by Johns Hopkins University undergraduate students will receive $10,000 and mentorship as the newest selected members of an alumnus-sponsored entrepreneurship fund.
The O’Connor fund was founded five years ago by Ralph O’Connor, a Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences alumnus, and his wife, Becky. It provides each member of an annual cohort with a non-dilutive grant and access to mentorship and resources through Hopkins’ student-focused incubator FastForward U.
To date, the fund has supported nearly two dozen student startups, including Treyetech, a company working to commercialize a medical device that aims to improve cornea transplant surgeries, and Fractal Tech, a cybersecurity startup that was acquired by Sunayu last year.
FastForward U received 31 applications for its 2018-2019 cohort.
Below, the four student teams that made the cut:
Aquatas: The team of Hopkins juniors is working to create an efficient and affordable water purification system for use in developing regions around the world. Aquatas’ purification device is manually powered and can produce up to a liter of water in about four minutes, bypassing common problems with other water purification products on the market like low water output, and requiring an external power source. The device weighs 25 pounds and is the size of a small household trash can. It lasts up to 16 months and costs around $65. The company will pilot test its prototype next spring, with hopes of making its first sales in Kenya soon.
Goba Tea: Byron D’Mello, a Hopkins junior, and Noah Doris, of Babson College, are working to produce the first bottled bubble tea, infused with stress-reducing vitamins. D’Mello and Doris have been making their own bubble tea and selling it for a 18 months at farmers’ markets and festivals. This past spring they ran a pilot program at Hopkins. Goba Tea has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is now available at 10 retail locations in Maryland, California, Florida and Massachusetts. The company has signed contracts with four other universities and is chiefly targeting busy and stressed college students.
Relavo: A team of seniors and sophomores is working to market their product, the PeritoneX. It is a disinfection device that aims to reduce the risk of infection during home peritoneal dialysis treatment, during which a patient’s blood is cleaned nightly inside the body by a solution administered through a catheter. Because patients administer this kind of dialysis themselves, there is a higher risk of contamination during setup. Resulting infection, called peritonitis, occurs in about one quarter of patients and requires hospitalization 60 percent of the time. Dr. Alicia Neu, chief of pediatric nephrology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, serves as Relavo’s clinical sponsor.
Straythink: Sophomores Nikhil Baddam and Owen Friesen are working to develop haptic feedback gloves that make virtual reality more immersive. VR gloves currently on the market use vibrations to stimulate the hand encountering an object. Straythink’s gloves uses selective stiffening rigidity instead, meaning the stiffness of the glove changes as the user “touches” objects. The tech could be used by surgeons, soldiers and others who need to practice physically precise tasks, with more accurate touch. Straythink developed a single-finger prototype of the glove earlier this year.