The USC Viterbi School of Engineering and other entrepreneurial students gathered April 24 at the 2019 Spring Innovation Celebration to network, enjoy one another’s company, and celebrate their business successes.
The annual event, hosted by the Viterbi Office of Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and held at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, featured an inspirational keynote address by entrepreneur Niki Bayat, a distinguished USC Viterbi alumna, and presentations by students participating in Project Sunrise and the ABC Innovation Prize.
Bayat, M.S. Chem ’14, Ph.D. Chem ’18, told the assembly about her journey from her native Iran to USC Viterbi to the famed Y Combinator incubator as CEO of AesculaTech, which develops innovative hydrogels and drug-delivery technologies. Bayat, who the MIT Technology Review named last year among the world’s top 35 innovators under 35, credited skills acquired during the Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition, or MEPC, with equipping her with the skills to flourish as a business builder.
“MEPC was only a six-month competition, [but] that was enough time to receive training on a variety of subjects like regulatory, patents, legal, management and pitch decks,” said Bayat, whose team placed second in the 2015 business model competition.
Mary Bessell, a second-year USC Viterbi progressive degree candidate, spoke about her hope to improve the patient portal used by the 600,000-plus Southern California patients affiliated with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. As participants in Project Sunrise – a new USC Viterbi-sponsored program that promotes humanitarian engineering to leverage technology and entrepreneurship to address real-world problems – Bessell and her Digital Engaged Wellness teammate, Gauri Madhok, a computer science and business administration student, want to help make the MyWellness portal more accessible, informative, and widely used for largely low-income population.
ABC teammates and USC Viterbi students Rhea Choudhury and Brian Powers gave a presentation about MyGIBuddy, a personal health tracking device designed to allow users to monitor their GI bacterial microbiomes and diagnose illnesses such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The ABC Innovation Prize offers undergraduate students resources and funding to develop solutions in three areas – atoms or hardware products, bits or digital products, and cells or biomedical or bioengineering projects.
The Viterbi Office of Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship oversees MEPC, Project Sunrise (Students UNiting for Real Impact to Society through Engineering), the ABC Innovation Prize, and the Amazon Alexa Voice Prize.
In additional to speeches, the participants had the chance to exchange business cards and small talk, making connections that could help the aspiring entrepreneurs in the future. Attendees included Andrea Belz, vice dean for technology innovation and entrepreneurship; Brandi Jones, vice dean for diversity and strategic initiatives; Trina Gregory, USC Viterbi’s associate director of innovation and entrepreneurship; and David Hodge, a USC Viterbi alumnus and member of the USC Viterbi Emerging Leaders Board, who, in 2013, sold his startup Embark, which built 14 iPhone mass transit apps, to Apple.
“What an inspirational night!” Gregory said.