In 2016, 19-year-old founder of Beacon Health, Shrenik Jain, took home the top prize from the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition with his mobile app designed to help people struggling with mental illness. Since winning the competition and being named the i.Invest 2016 Youth Business of the Year, Jain, Co-Founder Ravi Shah and Chief Data Scientist Satya Prateek Bommaraju, have diligently worked to transform their innovative idea into a successful health IT business.
Beacon Health’s mobile app has captured the attention of investors and customers from public and private sectors. The platform allows users to create an anonymous profile, search for the issue most relevant to them and instantly be connected with other Beacon Health members with similar mental health challenges as well as trained professionals. The platform offers anonymity and support by utilizing a natural language processing algorithm that can detect vulgar or malicious content and therefore prevent cyber bullying.
Since winning the i.Invest top prize which included $2,000 cash and a host of in-kind awards last October, the Beacon Health team has raised $225,000 in pre-seed funding. They will open a seed round with the goal of raising $600,000 in May-June. The ideal investors would be focused in healthcare and bring potential deployment sites in addition to capital.
The current backers include, the National Institute of Health (NIH), Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). NIH is mentoring the team in an effort to help them secure SBIR grants.
The Beacon Health staff has also grown. They currently have 10 employees, and are considering opening a second office in Boston, which will focus on research and development. They have signed 9 LOIs, some from major cities such as Denver and Nashville, to deploy their product once the pilots conclude.
Beacon Health’s app is live at several pilot sites, including Johns Hopkins University and Mindoula Health.
Congratulations, Shrenik, Ravi & Satya!
Businesses from left to right: MoTrack, Beacon, RapidFire & Hopes for the Best.
PR Solutions LLC today announced the winners of the first annual i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Mentored by a group of volunteer business and academic leaders from organizations, including Google, SEI Investments and Johns Hopkins University, four teams were selected from a pool of more than 25 to compete in a six-month web-based competition in order to qualify for the top prize.
This year’s winners are:
- First Place – Beacon (formerly Atrium). Developed by Shrenik Jain, a 19-year-old Baltimore, MD resident. Beacon is a mobile platform that offers anonymity and support to those suffering from mental health issues. Prize: $2,000 non-equity investment, title of Invest 2016 Youth Business of the Year and the opportunity to pitch at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
- Second Place – MoTrack Therapy. Developed by Rahul Yerrabelli, 18, Benjamin Pikus, 18, Himanshu Dashora, 18, Parth Singh, 19 and Adam Polevoy,19, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. MoTrack is a virtual reality software that has revolutionized the way patients can receive physical therapy for hand and wrist injuries. Prize: $1,000 non-equity investment
- Third Place – RapidFire. Developed by Marc Baghadjian, 17, from Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT. RapidFire is an automated air-soft gun clip with the capacity to increase bullets to 400 per round, making the air-soft sport experience completely hands-free for users. Prize: $500 non-equity investment
- Community Investment Award – Hopes for the Best. Developed by Cheyenne Rhone, 15, from West Mifflin High School in West Mifflin, PA. Hopes for the Best designs a fashion survival bracelet made from a special material called para cord 550 that can safely hold up to 500 lbs. Prize: $250 non-equity investment;opportunity to observe a BlueTree Allied Angels screening meeting and to participate in a one-hour consulting session with serial entrepreneur and executive director/chairman, Don Morrison; face-to-face legal consultation from Cherin Law Firm in Pittsburgh, PA and e-commerce consultation from LaToya C. Staten & Associates in Baltimore, MD.
In addition, all the winners will receive a one-hour marketing consultation with PR Solutions LLC; the opportunity to be a vendor and/or speaker during the #EYECON Youth Conference in May 2017 at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD; and, the opportunity to participate in a “Ask the Start-Up Attorney” no-fee virtual consultation with Cherin Law Firm.
“To say the competition exceeded our expectation is an understatement,” said executive director, Michelle Jackson. “We set out to create a mentoring program focused on bridging the gap between youth entrepreneurs with viable products and experienced business leaders. However, what we ultimately have is a way to shine a light on creative ideas being developed by the next generation of innovators – youth who learn through this process that no matter their age, geographical location or educational accomplishments, creating a great product can transcend all perceived limitations.”
The i.Invest competition is open to youth 13 to 19 years old with a demonstrable product or service. During the three rounds of scoring, applicants are required to submit a business concept profile, business plan, pitch video and participate in on-line group coaching with select judges.
“i.Invest doesn’t end with the awarding of prizes,” said Jackson. “Now that the winners have completed the process, they will continue to have access to our mentors. We are here to help them reach their personal and professional goals.”
The 2017 i.Invest competition will be launched in the coming months. To receive event updates and sponsorship information visit the i.Invest website or contact Michelle Jackson at email@example.com.
Special thanks to the i.Invest 2016 Judges & Mentors
Artis Keith Turner, Serial Entrepreneur, President of TurnGroup Technologies, LLC, 2015 Innovation Fellowship for the Venture Café & YouthCITIES Youth
Craig Dixon, AWS Educate, Amazon Web Services
Curtis H. Austin, Associate, Booz Allen Hamilton
Daraius Irani, Associate VP, DIAR of Towson University
David Tucker, Jr., Founder & Executive Director, On The Set Summer Film Camp
Don Morrison, Chairman of Deal Flow, BlueTree Allied Angels
Dr. Mansur Hasib, Professor and Author, University System of Maryland
Dr. Tamecka Knight, CEO & Owner, Premier Pediatrics of Houston
James Parren Courtney II, Owner, Courtney Consultants, LLC
Jennifer Mrzlack Co-founder, Naturi
Jerry Cozewith, Director of Development, Sarah Heinz House
Julie Kantor, CEO and Founder, Twomentor LLC
Ketaki Desai, Executive Director, eCenter@LindenPointe
LaToya Staten, Chief Collaborator, LaToya C. Staten & Associates
Matthew Miessau, Analyst, Epidarex Capital
Mike Capsambelis, Product Manager, Google
Mojdeh Bahar, Assistant Administer for Technology Transfer, USDA
Omar S. Muhammad, “Intrapreneur” & Director of the Entrepreneurial Development & Assistance Center (EDAC), Morgan State University
Professor Jim Liew, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
Regina Tillery, Director and CIO, Maryland Department of Commerce
Roderick Square, General Electric Hitachi
Susan R. Ramonat, Business Development Executive, Chief Risk Officer, SEI Investment
Timothy Taylor, CPA
Vernon Lee, Founder, Brightwood Management Partners, LLC
About PR Solutions LLC
PR Solutions LLC is a strategic marketing and corporate event planning firm that specializes in working with new and established ventures to build viable business models and to integrate innovative marketing tools into for-profit and non-profit business strategies. PR Solutions is the parent company of the i.Invest competition. To learn more, visit http://www.prsolutions123.com.
Marc Baghadjian, 17, from Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. Marc took his passion for the airsoft experience and turned it into a viable business, RapidFire.
Tell us a little about your business.
Traditional airsoft guns have a capacity of around 30 bullets, which can be shot out in approximately 15 seconds. Every time the user has to reload the magazine, he or she will waste about 30 seconds manually churning the equipment to properly load in the ammo. With RapidFire, this manual churning process is automated, and the capacity increases to around 400 bullets, making the airsoft experience completely hands-free for users.
What inspired the creation of RapidFire?
Being a huge fan of airsoft, Marc became frustrated with the time that it took to load bullets into the weapon. He began to realize that every reload was costing him between 20-30 seconds, only to run out of bullets within a minute or so because of the limited capacity of the magazine. He decided to design a magazine that not only would hold up to 400 bullets, but also reload on its own, allowing customers to focus on the game and not on their ammo.
What challenges will RapidFire face?
RapidFire would like to get into licensing deals with larger companies. To do so, they will need to convince seasoned brands why RapidFire is more beneficial than the existing product. This is a niche market; therefore, RapidFire will have to become a market leader in order to grow into a strong business.
How will RapidFire impact the world?
RapidFire will revolutionize the growing airsoft industry and make it easier for people to handle the equipment. Because RapidFire will load on its own, users will not need to focus on learning how to stop and reload when out of ammo.
What are the next steps for RapidFire?
RapidFire’s first goal is to complete the production of a marketable product at the Thayer School of Engineering. Marc expects this to take around 3-6 weeks to complete. Once this phase is done, Marc will move on to contacting large airsoft manufacturers to discuss potential licensing deals. Down the road, Marc hopes that one day this technology will be universally used for every airsoft magazine.
To stay abreast of RapidFire’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck, Marc!
Randy Wu, 16, from Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. LyfeCycle, which started as an idea in a model UN class, has now turned into Randy’s life mission: to help the less fortunate in developing countries.
Tell us a little about your business.
LyfeCycle is a nonprofit organization that is on a mission to mobilize people around the world using bicycles. This nonprofit donates specially designed and assembled bicycles to students, entrepreneurs and healthcare workers in Bangladesh. The bikes are designed to meet the unique needs of each village in Bangladesh, something that differentiates it from its competitors. LyfeCycle recruited volunteers in Bangladesh to support their mission by contacting high schools and universities in the area. These volunteers run the division overseas and also support efforts to get the local government involved in the mission. Currently, bikes are sold through the local Bangladeshi government who support the efforts to improve the lives of citizens in rural areas.
What inspired the creation of LyfeCycle?
What challenges will LyfeCycle face?
Because LyfeCycle is a nonprofit that relies mainly on donations, grants and fundraisers, raising enough capital by spreading the word about LyfeCycle’s mission will always be a priority. Right now, LyfeCycle is focused on providing bikes to citizens of Bangladesh, so they will need to expand resources in order to move into other territories.
How will LyfeCycle impact the world?
LyfeCycle enhances the lives of people in developing countries, specifically Bangladesh, by providing them with bicycles. When bicycles are given to underprivileged people in Bangladesh, they immediately have access to better educational, economic and healthcare opportunities. LyfeCycle is making the world a better place, one bicycle at a time!
What are the next steps for LyfeCycle?
LyfeCycle is currently partnered with the fourth largest law firm in the world, Kirkland Ellis, LLP. In the near future, LyfeCycle hopes to secure at least $3,000 in funding to expand their operations. With these funds, LyfeCycle will be able to offer more incentive for local organizations in Bangladesh to help their cause, and also secure more bikes that can be donated.
To stay abreast of LyfeCycle’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email email@example.com.
Good luck, Randy!
Cheyenne Rhone, 15, from West Mifflin High School in West Mifflin, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. Although she can’t legally drive a car on her own yet, she has already created a business, Hopes for the Best, that reminds customers to stay positive and be prepared for any situation.
Tell us a little about your business.
At first glance, these bracelets may seem to be just decorative, beautiful designs. However, there is much more to these bracelets than meets the eye. Each design is made from a special material called para cord 550 that can safely hold up to 500 lbs. If you’re ever in an emergency situation, the bracelet can be unraveled and used as a rope, a clothesline or to pull up heavy objects.
What inspired the creation of Hopes for the Best?
Raised as a Girl Scout, Cheyenne was inspired to create Hopes for the Best after learning how to make rope bracelets with her troop. However, Cheyenne wanted more than just a visually appealing piece of jewelry, so she sought to add function to her designs. She used the knowledge that she gained in survival training to turn her rope bracelets into a tool that could save lives in extreme situations. When deciding on a name, Cheyenne was inspired by a phrase that she wishes everyone would live by, hope for the best. Cheyenne hopes that her customers wear her bracelets with positive hopes for the future.
What challenges will Hopes for the Best face?
Hopes for the Best is in quite a competitive market since there are so many other jewelry designers out there. However, Cheyenne seeks to separate herself from the competition because her bracelets are both functional and fashionable. Right now, Hopes for the Best bracelets are sold solely through street festivals and community days, however the company will need to secure distribution on a larger scale to see higher earnings.
How will Hopes for the Best impact the world?
Because Cheyenne is on a mission to spread hope for the future, she has decided to donate 10% of her earnings to a charity of the customer’s choice. This will without a doubt make a positive impact in the world and inspire others to follow in Cheyenne’s footsteps.
Her bracelets are also made from biodegradable materials. These eco-conscious designs will prove that you don’t have to sacrifice beauty or style to reduce your carbon footprint in the world.
What are the next steps for Hopes for the Best?
Next, Cheyenne plans to continue spreading the word about Hopes for the Best and its positive message. Her goal is to launch a website to expand distribution and increase sales.
To stay abreast of Hopes for the Best’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck, Cheyenne!
Shrenik Jain, 19, a student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. Although he is without a doubt busy studying both applied math and computer science at one of the finest schools in the country, Jain spends his free time on a mission to help those suffering from mental health issues with his business, Atrium.
Tell us a little about your business.
Atrium is a mobile platform that offers anonymity and support to those suffering from mental health issues. Users can create an anonymous profile, search for the issue most relevant to them, and instantly be connected to other Atrium members with similar struggles as well as trained healthcare professionals. Because Atrium is anonymous, users will feel at ease opening up about their problems, especially because everyone else within the small group can easily relate. Jain brilliantly used natural language processing algorithms that can detect vulgar or malicious content and prevent cyberbullying from occurring in the private groups.
What inspired the creation of Atrium?
While volunteering as an emergency medical technician in New Jersey, Jain was shocked at the number of people who faced mental health issues in his community. “I expected to be heroically carrying maimed bodies away from catastrophic accidents. But many more patients had wounds I could not see,” he said.
The many patients that he encountered during his volunteer work opened his eyes to the lack of mental health resources available to those in need. But, Jain spotted another problem with mental health in America: the social stigma surrounding it. Jain went on a mission to find a way for individuals struggling with mental health issues to get help while remaining anonymous to avoid the fear of being judged. The result? Atrium, which gives users the ability to seek help with just a few swipes of the fingertips without ever having to share personal information with others on the platform.
What challenges will Atrium face?
Jain plans on contacting different institutions such as the military who have mental health providers on-site. If they agree to work with Atrium, these mental health providers will be responsible for mediating conversations on the platform and providing guidance as needed. Therefore, Atrium’s success relies on the ability to secure these types of contracts and show the value of the service to mental health providers. Because there are many rules and regulations regarding the medical field, it’s important that Atrium stay compliant with all laws involving patient confidentiality, such as HIPAA.
How will Atrium impact the world?
Almost 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some sort of mental health issue, and tragically, about two-thirds of these individuals go without treatment. Although 90% of suicides are caused by mental health issues, this isn’t the only outcome for those suffering from these ailments. Many people choose to live in silence about their pain for years, fearing that friends and family will alienate them if they speak their truth. Atrium gives these individuals invaluable access to a private, anonymous peer-to-peer support group that they can use to discuss issues, build confidence and learn how to manage their feelings.
What are the next steps for Atrium?
Atrium has received funding from several non-dilutive sources, including $800 from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School Pitch Competition, $6,000 from Johns Hopkins Business Plan Competition, $10,000 from Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures Grant for Undergraduate Startups and $27,000 in cloud computing resources from Kaiser Permanente.
To stay abreast of Atrium’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email email@example.com.
Good luck, Shrenik!
Have you ever watched an innovator convert an idea into a practical concept, mold that concept into a viable business model then employ an operational process that allows a new venture to spread its wings and soar? If not, you should, because the sheer curiosity and eagerness of a dedicated business leader is inspirational beyond words.
It takes commitment to start a business.
It takes boldness to put forth an innovative idea.
It takes heart to see it through to the very end.
For those of us privileged to work with business trailblazers, we’ve witnessed many new ideas take flight. But in order to help these pilots stay above the clouds, both public and private sectors must do more to avoid putting roadblocks in their path.
Innovation is the idea of thinking differently about how we do things. In many ways it is the key to building a better world. From the development of the polio vaccination to the creation of the Internet and beyond, when we inhibit innovation by not providing the resources needed to mature an innovator’s dynamic ideas, we are also hindering our own personal and professional growth.
Innovation should never be contained, stored or leashed. To grant it the freedom it needs to change the world, it must be unfettered then fueled. But the fueling becomes the problem. In order to properly drive innovation, public and private sectors must create pools of resources accessible to both thriving ventures and start-up companies.
In a perfect world, every program created in the name of entrepreneurship would offer hefty funding resources, mentorship and collaborative opportunities. But we live in the real world. With countless limits on capital resources for new businesses and political opposition to funding more research and development, roadblocks to innovation will continue to exist over time unless we act now.
So, how can we give innovation the freedom to thrive? Here are my three ideas to help public and private sectors broaden their view of the entrepreneurs’ needs:
Money matters. You’ve heard it a million times: access to capital is key. Well, it is. No company succeeds without financial support. Call it what you want – crazy, ill-conceived or unorthodox – but the process of creating new technology is a lot like throwing spaghetti at the wall. You sling it until it sticks and when it does, you peel it off, figure out what made it stick in the first place then do it all over again. But if every sling at the wall costs $50,000 or more, innovators may only get one chance at success. Therefore, the key is to ensure that all public and private entrepreneurial programs develop strategies that will provide multiple layers of funding for companies at each stage. One shot just isn’t enough.
Failure isn’t final. Public and private entrepreneurial programs should be designed with failure in mind. In a recent Forbes magazine article, “Why is Innovation so Hard?,” writer Edward D. Hess discusses a key factor in what hinders us from accepting failure. He writes: Our educational system and most work environments have taught us that good performance means avoiding failure, not making mistakes. This is a big problem, because failure is an unavoidable part of innovation experimentation.
Innovation requires the willingness to fail and learn. But failure comes at a cost that most investors don’t want to take on. Innovators with great ideas often fail at the early-stage because of a lack of financial support. Programs created to help them will often offer assistance worth the value of one sling at the wall and nothing more. To change this, we must shift our psychological acceptance of failure and instill new ways of thinking into public and private program development. Although failure may be final to most investors, to a serial entrepreneur it can be the beginning of a new onslaught of creative ideas and concepts that deserve a chance at success.
Supporting the best and disregarding the rest is no way to build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. The best of the best technologies can be found at the least attractive places. Great ideas can come from anywhere. From basements in an urban community to labs at junior colleges, entrepreneurial programs should throw out the status quo and start looking for great inventions in some of the most unlikely places. We must learn to support business growth at all levels and create new avenues for innovators to get the recognition they deserve regardless of their educational background, income level or geographical location.
Let’s work together to ensure that innovators are provided the resources they need to soar.
Written by Michelle D. Jackson, CEO, PR Solutions LLC & Executive Director, i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition