With a high-tech safety gadget for walkers, undergrads hit the jackpot in CU's latest New Venture Challenge.
Timothy Visos-Ely had a lot to celebrate in May: Not only did he and high-school sweetheart Amy Eichman (IntPhys’19) both earn CU Boulder degrees, but Visos-Ely’s souped-up, midnight-gray Nissan Xterra was about ready for summer off-roading.
Also, he’d just won $100,000.
On April 3, before a live audience of about 350, Visos-Ely (EngrPlus’19) and four teammates, all fellow engineering undergraduates, placed first in the 11th annual New Venture Challenge, CU Boulder’s top competition for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“This means we get to have a decent shot at launching this company,” said the 22-year-old Kansas-bred CEO of StrideTech, a budding medical device firm that emerged from the team’s senior design project.
In all, 230 students, faculty and affiliates participated in the latest NVC, which this year awarded a record $250,000-plus from a mix of donors, companies and investors.
The StrideTech team designed a digital accessory for walkers intended to improve user health and safety. The device, SmartStep, aims to minimize falls and correct lapses in posture by assessing gait patterns and relaying real-time information about force exerted on the walker.
“Very little weight should be applied to the walker,” said Visos-Ely, whose grandmother’s reliance on a walker inspired the project.
The first-place finish catapults StrideTech’s co-founders into postcollegiate life as bona fide entrepreneurs. This summer, Visos-Ely, Max Watrous (EngrPlus’19), Humsini Acharya (EngrPlus’19) and Andrew Plum (MechEngr’19) will work fulltime on their product and company as participants in Catalyze CU, a threemonth business accelerator program. [NVC teammate Tom Saunders (MechEngr’19) has other plans.]
If Visos-Ely gets a breather, he’ll recharge outdoors — hiking, mountain biking, tubing or off-roading in the Xterra. It’s equipped with a suspension he rebuilt himself. “I’ve always liked fixing things,” he said. “The reason why I work on my truck is to make it better. I find ways to improve it. That’s kind of what inventing is — looking at what’s out there and making it better.”
Learn more about the NVC at www.colorado.edu/nvc.