Picture above: Parth Agrawal, Junior Biomedical Engineering major, speaking on Comito, an EMS communication system that his team is developing.
On Friday Jan. 31, students gathered at the VentureLink building on 211 Warren St. to hear from three NJIT student-entrepreneurs who are currently running their own startups. The three entrepreneurs spoke about their journey, the challenges they face and the wisdom they’ve gained from their experiences.
For some, the path from the initial idea to what they ended up working on is not always a direct one as illustrated by Parth Agrawal, a junior Biomedical Engineering major, who is part of a three person team working on Comito, a system to streamline communications between emergency medical services and hospital care. He spoke about the pivot that his team had to make during their idea phase.
“We had this sort of mindset, we’re going to create an app that allows you to stream data from the ambulance directly into the hospital, because we had identified, and we thought that the problem was that hospitals don’t get enough information from the EMTs . . . we actually talked to more EMTs, we talked to more doctors, we found that the problem wasn’t that not enough information is going over to hospitals . . . the problem is that doctors aren’t able to identify the [relevant information].”
For others the major challenges arose later in the process as stated by Samir Peshori, a junior Computer Science and Information Technology major, who along with a team of eight other students is developing Glyde, an application to automate the ordering and payment process within food establishments. He spoke about the learning curve when pitching their app to different investors and restaurants.
“It really became a trial and error type of thing. Learning what suits best for restaurants, users, investors, and what they see and envision down the line with your application. So it was like a mix of both firepower from our team, and the way that we had to portray our app and vision because getting that across clearly sometimes wasn’t easy.”
The entrepreneurs also offered words of advice for anyone in the audience who was thinking about launching their own startup. Yashwee Kothari, a sophomore Computer Science major, is working independently on ReLeaf, a remote symptom monitoring system to help people with traumatic brain injuries manage their injury, and stated the importance of believing in yourself throughout the process.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that no, it’s not a good idea, it’s not going to work because I think the whole process is about failing and learning. You might come in with this one great idea that you think is going to work out, but you might have something completely different like six months from now.”
For Peshori, he spoke about how being with his team surrounded him with people who would continue to push him. He advised everyone to start “finding the right people in your life, that’s probably one of the biggest things for me coming into college . . . I feel like the biggest thing is like pushing for more with people with the same mindset as you, and then feeling a fire and just making it bigger.”
All three startups are housed in the VentureLink building, which offers many free services including mentoring. According to William Lutz, NJIT’s Director of Commercialization, “They get free workspace here. They get a free mailbox here. They get free coaching from lawyers, they get free coffee. I give them $5,000 of AWS credits to get started.” AWS refers to Amazon Web Services which is a cloud based server platform which allows companies to run their web applications.
One of the biggest benefits that VentureLink offers is the opportunity to collaborate with the other startups. When asked about the experience of working with the other startups Kothari said, “I think that getting to know people also builds your network and connections. People can bounce ideas off of each other . . . sometimes when you have your idea, you think it’s flawless, and you don’t see the flaws that some other people could see.”
Agrawal added, “It’s always fun being able to talk to and meet with like-minded people. And you know, I think that VentureLink is a great opportunity to foster that here on campus and build that sort of mindset.”
Lutz encouraged everyone with their own startup idea of the benefits of starting during college. “When you leave this place, when you leave your program, your life is going to get expensive really quickly. So you can afford to try out your crazy idea, your crazy startup while you’re a student with all these free resources.”