USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase Awards Over $30K to Student Startups

The six USC teams who won $31,600 in awards at the 2017 USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase are pictured here with Showcase judges, organizers, and sponsors. Photo by Nikolaus Traitler.

USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase Awards Over $30K to Student Startups
By Peijean Tsai, USC Stevens Center for Innovation
October 25, 2017

The USC Stevens Center for Innovation recently hosted the 11th Annual USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase, where USC student entrepreneurs competed for over $30,000 in awards to further their inventions and startup ideas.

Held at the University of Southern California on October 13, 2017 during Trojan Family Weekend, 24 USC student teams pitched their business ideas to vie for a total of $31,600 in prizes. Six teams won awards, which included two prizes worth $10,000.

The 2017 winners of the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase represented diverse disciplines spanning six USC schools, with innovations in engineering and medicine, media, social enterprise and the environment, and consumer products.

The winner of the $10,000 USC Stevens Breakthrough Innovation Award went to Carbon Thumbprint, a startup led by HTE@USC students from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Carbon Thumbprint is developing a carbon dioxide monitor that will not burn babies, which can improve the way hospitals care for premature and critically ill infants.

The Carbon Thumbprint team members said they plan to use the funds to develop and iterate prototypes of their device and carry out animal trials in hopes of validating their ideas before moving into a clinical setting.

“This competition taught us how important it is to be well-versed in the fields in which we are innovating, and it has certainly helped us improve our ability to communicate our ideas to anyone willing to listen,” said Carbon Thumbprint team leader Saif Ali Azam, a medical school student at Keck.

The USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase is the annual flagship event of the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, which has the mission to maximize the translation of USC research into products for public benefit through licensing, collaborations, and the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation. USC Stevens hosts and sponsors this annual showcase to provide USC student entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their inventions and startup ideas from various disciplines to USC business leaders, experts, nationally recognized entrepreneurs and investors, and parents and students attending Trojan Family Weekend.

The 2017 awards were sponsored by the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund at USC Marshall School of Business, Daniel Floersheimer, USC Marshall Center for Global Innovation, and the USC Marshall Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

The Showcase has distributed over $149,000 in USC-sponsored awards since USC Stevens started hosting the student business competition in 2007. Winning teams in the past have used the prize funding – and the experience of participating in the Showcase – to propel their businesses forward.

EventAll, an online platform for organizers to create custom event mobile apps tailored to their needs, earned the $10,000 award for Best Business Concept, a prize sponsored by the Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund of the USC Marshall School of Business. EventAll was led by Alvin Liang, a music industry and business entrepreneurship student at the USC Thornton School of Music. His team includes students from the USC Marshall School of Business and USC School of Architecture.

For its non-profit model that unites and empowers students across the world to act for climate justice, the project International Student Environmental Coalition (ISEC) won $5,000 for the Daniel Floersheimer Global Impact prize, which awards the project with the most innovative idea to solve global social or environmental issues.

“The award is so helpful to us and is going to contribute to numerous programs,” said Kayla Soren, an international relations and environmental studies student at USC Dornsife who founded the coalition. “We will first use the funds to send a team to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, to discuss forming a sponsorship with the Nigerian government to further expand our Plant for the Planet program. The government has been eager to have a meeting for a while, but we haven’t had the funds to do so until now.”

Vibraille, which provides a device for the deaf and visually impaired that converts text from a computer or phone to a braille-like format which can be read with a tactile hand, won the $2,500 Most Potentially Disruptive award. Sponsored by the USC Marshall Center for Global Innovation, the Most Potentially Disruptive award honors the project most likely to completely transform its marketplace by making previous solutions obsolete.

Lahtt Sauce, an all-purpose chili oil sauce startup, won the $2,500 Lloyd Greif Center Venture Validation Award, which is earned by the project with the most progress gaining market traction including securing investors, funding, and marketing. Made with a proprietary blend of simple ingredients, the sauce is ideal for dipping, stir-fry, and marinade and offers a convenient solution for cooking authentic Asian dishes at home.

MedMind won $1,600 for the Trojan Family Choice Award, the one prize selected by popular vote of event attendees. The team has developed an app that makes it easier for cancer patients to manage their drugs and side effects and take control of their options.

The Showcase celebrated innovation and entrepreneurship, featuring a Keynote Address by Rohit Shukla, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Larta Institute, an internationally-recognized technology accelerator based in Los Angeles that has helped more than 10,000 companies commercialize their innovations. In a talk titled “Your Entrepreneurial Journey,” Shukla offered encouragement and practical advice to the young entrepreneurs in attendance: “If you’re an entrepreneur facing the unexpected, surround yourself with people who will bolster you.”

For the all-day event, 24 student teams spent the morning presenting their startup ideas and prototypes to invited judges from the business and venture community and to Trojan Family Weekend attendees. The top 10 scoring teams advanced to an afternoon finalist round where each gave a 3-minute pitch about their businesses. The pitches were then scored by the judges to select the final awards. The judges included individuals from Deerfield, Facebook, Larta Institute, Nixon Peabody, Salem Partners, Stanton Chase International, T.R. Winston, and USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

“Congratulations to the winners and all of the students who competed in this year’s USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase. They exemplify the strong innovation and entrepreneurial culture at USC. USC Stevens is proud to be an integral part of, and support, the USC innovation ecosystem,” said Jennifer Dyer, Executive Director, USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

The competition’s 24 teams were selected from a larger pool of applicants, as USC Stevens held an open call for applications for all USC undergraduate and graduate students, starting in Spring 2017. Students who earned a spot in the Showcase were from a wide range of disciplines, including the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC School of Architecture, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, USC Iovine and Young Academy, Keck School of Medicine of USC, USC Marshall School of Business, USC Thornton School of Music, and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

–Published October 25, 2017. All photos by Nikolaus Traitler, USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

COMPLETE LIST OF WINNERS:

USC Stevens Breakthrough Innovation Award $10,000
Carbon Thumbprint (a more accurate transcutaneous carbon dioxide monitor that will not burn babies).
Team leader: Saif Ali Azam, Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund Best Business Concept Award $10,000
EventAll (an online platform for organizers to create custom event apps tailored to their needs, giving fans the best possible experience).
Team leader: Alvin Liang, USC Thornton School of Music.

Daniel Floersheimer Global Impact Award $5,000
International Student Environmental Coalition (an international network of 30 countries that unites and empowers students anywhere in the world to act for climate justice).
Team leader: Kayla Soren, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

USC Marshall Center for Global Innovation Most Potentially Disruptive Award $2,500 Vibraille (a device that converts text from a computer/phone to a braille-like format which can be read with a tactile hand).
Team leader: Luke Vincent Naman, Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Lloyd Greif Center Venture Validation Award $2,500
Lahtt Sauce (an all-purpose chili oil sauce made with a proprietary blend of simple ingredients, and is ideal for dipping, stir-fry, and marinade).
Team leader: Maxine Lau, USC Marshall School of Business.

Trojan Family Choice Award $1,600 – voted most popular by attendees of Trojan Family Weekend. Sponsored by the Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund at the USC Marshall School of Business.
MedMind (an app that makes it easier for cancer patients to manage their drugs and side effects and take control of their options).
Team leader: Nina Singh, USC Viterbi School of Engineering. 

The Carbon Thumbprint team, which won the $10,000 USC Stevens Breakthrough Innovation Award, is pictured here with Jennifer Dyer (Executive Director, USC Stevens Center for Innovation) and USC Marshall Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Professor Pai-Ling Yin (Master of Ceremonies).

The $10,000 award for Best Business Concept, a prize sponsored by the Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund, as represented by sponsor and judge Julia Metcalfe (left) went to EventAll, a startup led by Alvin Liang (right), a music industry and business entrepreneurship student at the USC Thornton School of Music. His team included students from the USC Marshall School of Business and USC School of Architecture (including Sara Greenwood, center).

Showcase judges were members of the business and venture community, including from Deerfield, Facebook, Larta Institute, Nixon Peabody, Salem Partners, Stanton Chase International, T.R. Winston, and USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

The Showcase’s Keynote Address was delivered by Rohit Shukla, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Larta Institute, an internationally-recognized technology accelerator based in Los Angeles that has helped more than 10,000 companies commercialize their innovations.

Lahtt Sauce, an all-purpose chili oil sauce startup led by USC Marshall graduate student Qiyuan You and USC Marshall alumna Maxine Lau (shown above at their Showcase exhibit table), won the $2,500 Lloyd Greif Center Venture Validation Award.

The Showcase’s Keynote Address was delivered by Rohit Shukla, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Larta Institute, an internationally-recognized technology accelerator based in Los Angeles that has helped more than 10,000 companies commercialize their innovations.

MedMind won $1,600 for the Trojan Family Choice Award, the one prize selected by popular vote of event attendees. The team, which consists of students at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, has developed an app that makes it easier for cancer patients to manage their drugs and side effects and take control of their options.

Vibraille (led by Keck student Luke Naman, shown here during the finalist fast pitch round) won the $2,500 Most Potentially Disruptive award.

For its non-profit model that unites and empowers students across the world to act for climate justice, the project International Student Environmental Coalition (as led by USC Dornsife student Kayla Soren, above) won $5,000 for the Daniel Floersheimer Global Impact award.