By: Josh Sloat
There are problems and then there are good problems. We once again received an overwhelming response, and the quality of your submissions blew us away! This made for an incredibly difficult selection process. It’s clear that although this past year has presented the world with unprecedented challenges, your resolve, steadfastness, and creative spirits have not been tempered one bit. After deadlocked deliberation by our selection committee and our desire to help as many as possible during these trying times, we opted to once again lift the constraints of the original award plan beyond the single $5,000 award to include the addition of $2,500 awards to two other exceptional finalists.
Using a weighted matrix, our team scored applications based on the following criteria:
We can't say it enough, but the recipients are a truly gifted collection of entrepreneurs who will surely do great things. We couldn’t be more thrilled about the potential to be a part of their journey and endurance during this critical time.
Drumroll please! And the 2021 awards go to..
We're so very pleased to announce that the first place, full $5,000 award goes to Awayr AI. Awayr’s mission is to enable designs of the future, with a relentless focus on end-user well-being and system performance. In 2009, co-founder Adam Beal was hit by a distracted driver trying to adjust his radio. In an effort to save others from similar fates, he and Dr. Ben D. Sawyer launched Awayr AI and began creating a new class of modeling and simulation AI that can model and predict human factors in ways not previously possible. Their critical innovations have the potential to save lives and improve driving safety for millions of people, while also decreasing the time it takes for futuristic technologies, such as vehicle autonomy, to make it to market.
Our thought bubble. We live in a distraction-fueled economy, and it’s coming at a great cost to driver and pedestrian safety. This seems like an incredible opportunity to apply advanced machine technologies to address preventable human failure. Backed by a team with a world-renowned automotive scientist and former Fortune 10 automotive strategy expert, we’re confident Awayr AI will deliver on its mission!
We’re excited to share that we’ve selected Aspirational Technology as our first runner-up, to receive a $2,500 award. Aspirational Technology is on a mission to end water poverty with an affordable and immediate solution to the global health crisis of waterborne diseases. They’ve developed an ultra low-cost, easy to use water filter for low income consumers in developing countries. Their filter is easy to use and screws directly onto the type of faucets commonly found in low-income houses. A family of five will spend less than a penny a day for water—less than any other filter available on the market in emerging countries. Their approach doesn’t end with a device, though. They’ve also architected a scalable and profitable manufacturing and distribution model centered around regional production that will create economic opportunity in developing countries and reduce carbon emissions from long supply chains. Added sustainability and environmental impact comes by way of a reduced carbon footprint compared to other clean water solutions since filtering water at home eliminates wasteful consumption of plastic.
Our thought bubble. Water, food, shelter – those are the essential needs and Aspirational Technology is tackling the most important in a very big, very scalable way. It’s tragic that anyone could be denied access to the most vital ingredient to life. Their mission is focused on a truly great cause, and we firmly believe they have the backgrounds and passion to make a big difference. Every startup says they’re trying to make the world a better place, but Aspirational Technology is actually going to do it!
We are delighted to report that we've selected Karybdis as our second runner-up, also receiving a $2,500 award. Karybdis aims to improve patient care in gynecological surgeries through technique and device innovation. Their product is a device that will increase the speed and safety of minimally-invasive abdominal laparoscopic hysterectomies. The current methods of operation take 30-60 minutes, and according to Karybdis, every single minute saved in the operating room saves the hospital approximately $100. Nearly 1/3 of all women in the United States will undergo a hysterectomy by the age of 60, and almost half of hysterectomies conducted in the U.S. are abdominal laparoscopic hysterectomies.
Our thought bubble. Given skyrocketing healthcare costs and the number of women impacted by this type of operation, disruption is essential. This innovation is both timely and necessary. Their group comprises an interdisciplinary team of graduate students at the University of Michigan from the schools of medicine, business and biomedical engineering – and they are backed by support from leaders in the field of Gynecology. Karybdis is a winning combination of a great idea and execution ability, with big potential for both societal and economic impact.
We certainly hope we'll be able to put COVID and its path of destruction in the rearview soon enough. Consistent with that and a strong urge to look forward, we're firmly committed to the RISE award being an annual fixture, but it will come back next year as the “Recognition for Innovative Startup Excellence” Award. We love helping entrepreneurs. It's what gets us out of bed in the morning. Getting to help even more in an epically difficult time has proved to be exceptionally rewarding for us and we're certain it will prove to be such for the recipients. Please stay tuned for updates on these great companies.
Ashley Sloat, Ph.D.
Startups have a unique set of patent strategy needs - so let this blog be a resource to you as you embark on your patent strategy journey.