Why wait until you graduate to start changing the world? In January 2016, Forbes released its “Meet Fifteen Of The Brightest College Entrepreneurs And Their Innovative Startups” list, highlighting innovation by students. Each of these startups was a finalist in the RECESS Pitch Competition in Los Angeles.
Contributor Matt Hunckler (founder of the online entrepreneurship network Powderkeg) notes that a third of all business incubators are located on college and university campuses. Between 1985 and 2008, he writes, the number of educational institutions offering entrepreneurship courses rose from only 250 to more than 5,000.
The startups featured in the Forbes article were attached to 15 different U.S. campuses, including both public and private schools from all around the nation. Startups covered a wide variety of fields, from helping prevent repetitive stress injuries in athletes to robotics to turbine engineering to personalized medicine research in oncology. Below, we’ll examine three of these startups.
Founded by Eric Beydoun and four fellow students at the University of Houston, WAVVE Stream Inc. is a novel, efficient approach to water filtration, an issue that affects communities worldwide. The filtration process itself uses a gel made from the discarded shells of shrimp, apropos to student-engineers attending a school in a Gulf state. Not only does it recycle waste from the shrimping industry, but the gel is also biodegradable, unlike the plastic-based systems that are typically used. Harmful substances including nitrates and phosphates can be removed from water systems using this Earth-friendly process.
Students at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania founded this startup that uses an app to help people with visual impairments recognize things in their surroundings. Visually impaired persons can download the app, point their smart phones at objects in the environment, and get audio feedback on what the phone’s camera sees. Inventors Rajat Bhageria, Joe Cappadona, and Ben Sandler created the app as part of the PennApps hackathon while they were merely freshmen. By helping people with low or no vision distinguish between, say, a one-dollar bill and a twenty, ThirdEye Technologies helps provide much-needed independence for folks with a common disability.
- Play Business
Massachusetts’s Babson College is one of the most prestigious destinations for would-be entrepreneurs, so perhaps we should expect no less from undergrads from Babson. Play Business is a startup that aims to bring investment to the sorely underserved, but emerging, business communities in Latin America. The brainchild of Joan Segura, who earned his MBA from Babson in 2017, Play Business connects investors with early businesses in the pre-seed and seed stages. Latin American startups get a much-needed infusion of capital and local economies benefit from the services and employment they generate.