Master's student Saajan Dehury was part of the winning team at Campus 1871, a startup pitch competition held on March 31-April 2 at 1871, Chicago's Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship.
The objective of the competition was to design a potential startup company and create a viable business model that would solve a meaningful problem, all within one weekend. Teams, limited to ten members, were composed of students from various backgrounds and universities. Members accepted different responsibilities for their startup, including design, business model, revenue model, marketing, and user experience/interface.
Dehury's team decided to pitch a startup to tackle the problem of asthma and design a technology to improve inhalers. Dehury worked on the revenue model for the company, although his background is not in business.
"Thirteen percent of the U.S. population suffers from asthma, and ten Americans die every day from the condition. Uncontrolled asthmatics contribute to growing medical costs, resulting in higher insurance claims. In addition, the dosage released from the nozzle of a conventional inhaler is sometimes inaccurate, and the nozzle can become clogged," he explained.
His team designed a universal smart technology, an inhaler cap, which would fit into almost all traditional inhalers. The device, Respirare, is made up of a durable, reusable, antimicrobial plastic. A touch sensor controls the dose and communicates with a mobile application that helps keep track of the user's condition.
"We presented the idea to a panel of five judges and eventually secured the first position among fourteen teams. The reward includes an office space for six months in 1871, with access to resources needed for building a successful startup," Dehury said.
He credits his Campus 1871 experience with providing him the opportunity to "explore the entire product lifecycle" as well as helping him better appreciate the value of teamwork.
The event was organized by the collaborative initiative of 1871 and nine universities—Northwestern University, Illinois Institute of Technology, DeVry University, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, The University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Springfield, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Campus 1871 team members included (pictured above), front row: Pakhi Chaturvedi (Univ. of Chicago), Mary Novokhovsky (IIT), Neha Goel (Loyola), Moses Lara (Devry); back row: Saajan Dehury, Amy Kamin (IIT), David Olorundare (DePaul), Briana Kennedy (Loyola), Lisa Yala (Illinois), and Dominique Ross (Loyola).