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Healthcare Tech Teams Dominate 2018 Wharton Startup Challenge

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Just a few weeks ago, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School held its 2018 Startup Challenge, which awarded cash prizes to outstanding student entrepreneurs whose startups all have the potential to become “the next big thing.”

Billed as the school’s most significant entrepreneurship event of the year, the Wharton Startup Challenge saw 27 semifinalist teams compete for $135,000 in cash prizes.

Eight teams made it to the finals on April 27th, where their ideas were assessed by six top-level executives from companies including Joor, Karlin Asset Management, the Charian Group, Monetate, Examworks, and Orasure.

The judges were asked to evaluate each team based on varied criteria, which included the quality of the idea, product, or service; how prepared the team was for launch; and their execution plan.

Here are highlights from the teams that came out ahead at this year’s Startup Challenge:


Sanguis, an at-home blood cell counting device for chemotherapy patients, took home the $35,000 grand prize, along with $15,000 in legal, accounting, and strategy services.

Dubbed “a medical device dream team,” Sanguis’ Daniel Zhang, Prateer Agarwal, and Diyanish Agarwal are close friends who met as first-year medical school students. Their device measures neutrophil levels, which are the human body’s primary method of fighting infection. Patients can use Sanguis to track their neutrophil levels themselves and contact their doctors immediately with any potential problems.

On the decision to focus on this issue, the Sanguis team points to harsh statistics that 400,000 cancer patients will suffer from low neutrophil levels during their chemotherapy treatment each year. They are especially passionate about the device’s potential to reach underserved regions, citing the team’s Indian heritage as a personal connection. “It’s especially important to us…Sanguis could be a huge game-changer.”

MD Ally

Second prize and the competition $10,000 “Innovation Award” were both awarded to MD Ally, an emergency tele-medicine company designed to allow 911 dispatchers to instantly access ER physicians for non-emergency calls.

MD Ally “moves up the clock” of emergency care and ultimately “drives savings for patients, payers, and municipalities” by reducing non-emergency use of ER physicians and resources. Randy Findley and Shanel Fields, both of whom work in healthcare technology, developed the idea. The duo is acutely aware of the industry’s technological limitations “that prevent first-responders from delivering the best and most timely care.”

Strella Biotechnology

Strella Biotechnology took home three different awards—the Social Impact Prize ($10,000), the Michelson People’s Choice Award ($3,000), and the Crowd Favorite Award. Strella left an impression with its presentation of a biosensing platform that predicts the ripeness of fruit and reduces “food spoilage and waste in the supply chain.”

The product allows for ripeness monitoring while food is in storage so businesses can “always locate the readiest product for their customers.” Strella’s team pointed to statistics that demonstrate how almost a third of all food in the world is wasted or spoiled before it can be eaten. Strella hopes its services can work directly to fight global hunger.

Avisi Technologies

Finally, the third prize of $10,000 was awarded to Avisi Technologies, whose VisiPlate is “a nanoscale defense against blindness from glaucoma.”

The VisiPlate is a “nanoscale drainage implant” used to fight glaucoma and mitigate a wide spectrum of treatment issues, including “post-operative double vision, excessive scar tissue, patient discomfort, tissue erosion, and bleb failure.”

Prior to the competition, the Avisi team made a point to highlight the many resources Wharton makes available to its student entrepreneurs. Team leader Rui Jing, a finance and strategic management specialist who spoke enthusiastically about Wharton, perfectly encapsulated the mood of this year’s competition: “We see this as a great opportunity to leverage resources at the university to do something impactful.”

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.