A team with technology that could help monitor the condition of cats and dogs with diabetes won Georgia Tech’s 2015 Startup Competition ($15,000, plus the Edison Prize: a $15,000 convertible note).
The winning team, Bioletics, evolved through Georgia Tech’s Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results (TI:GER) Program, which teams Georgia Tech MBA students with Emory law students who work together on commercializing PhD students’ scientific research.
Bioletics’ Yogi Patel, a PhD candidate in bioengineering at Georgia Tech, says that his team was originally focused on developing an implantable device to help monitor diabetes in humans, but recognized that the FDA hurdles to taking such a product to market would be significant.
Patel and his teammates pivoted from their original strategy when one of them wondered, “Do pets get diabetes?”
Through their research, they discovered that there are 750,000 diabetic cats and dogs in the world, and that this number is increasing by 4 percent a year. In discovery discussions with potential customers and veterinary experts, they learned that the owners of these pets often avoided leaving home for vacations out of concern for their animals.
Existing methods of monitoring pets with diabetes involve the challenging process of owners having to make multiple needle pricks in pets’ footpads or ears to extract enough blood for testing glucose levels, Patel explains.
But Bioletics could solve that issue as well as provide greater testing accuracy through an implantable device in the abdominal cavity that would be capable of sending change-of-condition alerts to a mobile app.
Patel says his team’s customer discovery process revealed that many of these pet owners would happily pay $2,000 for the cost of the device – called Stability – and the surgical implantation to feel greater freedom in their personal lives.
“We are 100 percent committed to getting this product to market,” says Patel of the Bioletics team, which also includes second-year MBA students Maggie Lovatt and Hassan El Majid, and second-year Emory law students Mark Luo and Sarika Mathur. They plan to eventually win FDA approval to use the device in humans.
Twelve teams competed in the Final Round of the Startup Competition on March 9 at Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business. They began work in the fall and received mentoring from entrepreneurial experts on the way to the Semifinals on March 2.
Known as the Business Plan Competition until 2013, the Startup Competition now focuses on discovering a market opportunity and creating an innovative business model to address it. No written business plan, financial projections, or investor pitch is required. Instead, teams work together to define a compelling startup.
Most technology startups fail because they start executing before they have a proven business model, note the competition organizers at Georgia Tech’s VentureLab. The Startup Competition helps position teams for success by requiring them to talk regularly to potential customers to ensure that they’re developing a product or service that people want.
Bioletics’ Patel says, “The best thing about the Startup Competition was the process of learning that there was a need for a product like ours. We were actually initially skeptical of the idea of pursuing the pet market.”
He notes that his team’s participation in the technology commercialization TI:GER Program has also been very helpful in understanding what it will take to get the Stability device to market.
MBA, PhD and law students admitted into the highly competitive TI:GER program work together on teams as they take classes on legal strategies to protect intellectual property and conduct market and financial analysis.
The 2015 Startup Competition’s judges included Stephen Fleming, vice president of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute; John Bacon, founder and chairman of iP2Biz LLC; and Raghupathy Sivakumar “Siva,” co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer of StarMobile, and a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
All together, the Startup Competition awarded $40,000 in prizes.
Participating teams could not enter with an existing business, because the goal of the Startup Competition is to discover new business opportunities.
In addition to Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business and VentureLab, Tech Square Labs served as event sponsor.