USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase Awards $25K to Student Startups

Student Innovator Showcase teams iAssay, OptDx, Athelas, Loanmentum, SuppNow, Labyrinth AUTOelectronics won $25,200 in awards. (picture by Chris Brake Photography)

USC’s brightest student entrepreneurs recently showed their ingenuity for creating viable solutions to global problems with their healthcare innovations, inventive apps and engineering marvels at the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase, an annual competition held at University Park Campus during Trojan Family Weekend.

24 student teams, each with its own startup concept, competed for $25,200 in awards sponsored by the USC community at the 9th annual USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase on October 23, 2015.

The winner of the top honor, the $7,000 USC Stevens Most Innovative award, went to Athelas, which has developed a portable blood analyzer that can deliver a complete blood count within minutes, facilitating medical diagnoses without a trip to the doctor.

Athelas’ co-founder, Deepika Bodapati, said she and her team plan to use the funds to build a production-grade prototype and kick off the FDA approval process for their technology.

“I was really impressed by the number of people [at the Showcase] who were pursuing Ph.D.s and medical degrees while working hard on their startups,” added Bodapati, a USC Viterbi student. Earlier this month, Athelas also won $25,000 at the 4th Annual Silicon Beach Awards Venture Competition at USC.

Loanmentum, a student startup of the USC Incubator, earned the $7,000 prize for Best Business Concept, an award sponsored by the Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund of the USC Marshall School of Business. Loanmentum is a software development company that creates a Carfax-like report on borrowers for lenders in the hard money market.

The funds will enable Loanmentum to complete legal work to get the company off the ground and also help with sales and marketing to customers at trade shows, said Jeff Loo, Loanmentum Chief Business Officer and a USC Marshall student.

“There is no shortage of great ideas at USC… and it’s encouraging to know that the school has the resources, network, and commitment to seeing new businesses flourish on campus,” said Loo, reflecting on competing in the Showcase.

For its software that screens infants for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) which can cause blindness, OptDx won $5,000 for the Daniel Floersheimer Global Impact award, a new prize this year to award the project with the greatest potential reach to benefit society worldwide.

For the all-day event, 24 student teams spent the morning presenting their startup ideas and prototypes to event attendees and judges from the business community. The top 10 scoring teams advanced to an afternoon finalist round where each gave a 3-minute pitch about their businesses. The ptiches were scored by the judges to select the final awards.

In keeping with the theme of innovation, the event also featured Jon Kraft, managing partner at LiftOff and co-founder of Pandora Media, to deliver a keynote speech centered around entrepreneurship. Kraft was also on the judge panel, as were individuals from Dun and Bradstreet, Idealab, Fandango, Facebook, Larta Institute, PARC Place Program Management, Tatum, USC Marshall and USC Stevens.

Two teams, SuppNow (in-gym nutrition supplement vending machines) and iAssay (medical diagnostics), each won $2,500 for awards honoring Venture Validation and Most Potentially Disruptive, respectively. The awards were sponsored by the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC Marshall and the USC Marshall Center for Global Innovation.

Labyrinth AUTOelectronics won $1,200 for the Trojan Family Choice Award, the one prize selected by popular vote of event attendees. The company has developed an RFID-based vehicle identification technology that allows details to be exchanged automatically during a collision.

“We applaud all the students who competed in this year’s Student Innovator Showcase. They truly represent the next generation of USC entrepreneurs,” said Lisa Andaleon, Director of Operations and Senior Business Officer at USC Stevens Center for Innovation.

The competition’s teams were selected from a larger pool of applicants, as USC Stevens held an open call for applications for all USC students. Students who earned a spot in the Showcase were from a wide range of disciplines, including Keck School of Medicine of USC, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC Marshall School of Business, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, USC School of Cinematic Arts, USC Annenberg School for Communications and USC Thornton School of Music.

Winning teams in the past have used the prize funding – and the experience of participating in the Showcase – to propel their actual businesses forward. The Steel Glass, which won the $7,000 Best Business Concept award last year, used its prize to launch a first successful beta test of its ultra-hardened glassware for the restaurant and hospitality industry. Stasis Labs, which won the $7,000 Most Innovative award and the $1,200 Trojan Famiy Choice Award in 2014, used the funds to build a working prototype for its low-cost health monitoring technologies for developing countries.

The USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase is the 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. The Showcase has distributed $86,100 in prizes since it began in 2007.

–By Peijean Tsai, USC Stevens Center for Innovation, Published October 29, 2015


Left to right: USC Viterbi student Deepika Bodapati pitches Athelas’ healthcare innovation during the Showcase; USC alumnus Armand Farrokh (with USC Annenberg student Nick Cegelski) of SuppNow delivers a 3-minute pitch during the Finalist Fast Pitch round; Jon Kraft, Managing Partner of LiftOff and Co-Founder of Pandora, delivers his keynote speech on entrepreneurship. For more photos, check out the USC Stevens Facebook album. All pictures by Chris Brake Photography.


USC Stevens Most Innovative Award $7,000
Project shows the most innovative approach to problem solving overall, and has the most potential to alter its industry.
Athelas (provides a low-cost, portable blood-imaging device that uses microfluidics and microscopy to diagnose medical conditions automatically)

Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund Best Business Concept Award $7,000
Awarded to the project demonstrating the best business model to be financially viable in the marketplace.
Loanmentum (provides an investor report that aggregates multiple data sources to perform due diligence on borrowers for lenders in the hard money market)

Daniel Floersheimer Global Impact Award $5,000 – New This Year!
Awarded to the project which has the greatest global reach to benefit society and a demonstrated plan for scalability and sustainability.
OptDx (provides an image pattern recognition software that screens infants for retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, which can cause blindness)

USC Marshall Center for Global Innovation Most Potentially Disruptive Award $2,500
Project most likely to completely transform its marketplace by making previous solutions obsolete.
iAssay: Revolutionizing Point-of-Care Medical Diagnostics (developing the world’s first open platform point-of-care tester, reducing healthcare costs, improving patient outcomes and capturing key data)

Lloyd Greif Center Venture Validation Award $2,500
Awarded to the project closest to market with the most progress gaining market traction including securing investors, funding and marketing.
SuppNow (providing the first nutrition supplement vending kiosk to offer the top supplements right now, at the right price, right outside gyms throughout the country)

Trojan Family Choice Award $1,200
Project voted most popular the attendees of Trojan Family Weekend.
Labyrinth AUTOElectronics (provides RFID-based vehicle identification technology that allows vehicle tracking details to be exchanged during a collision)

Each student participating in the Student Innovator Showcase was also gifted a Dun and Bradstreet small business starter kit valued at $599 each, a total value of $50,000.

For a complete list of all participating teams, see our event program.