Living with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a potentially life-threatening condition that affects the adrenal glands, inspired MS in industrial design student Julia Anthony to develop SOLU-tion—which earned first place in the annual Top Ram business model competition at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University).
“I’m really excited,” she said just after winning the Matt Glass Award for Entrepreneurship. “I’ve had this idea for a long time.”
Her dual chamber auto-injector offers those with adrenal insufficiency disorders a fast and effective way to dispense medication in emergency situations. Anthony said she plans to use the $1,000 prize to help with prototyping. She also will receive a free one-hour consultation with a lawyer to support her idea, as well as meet with Dr. Steven Glass, who sponsors the competition in memory of his son Matthew Glass.
In Top Ram, seven teams of students from East Falls and Center City campuses pitched their ideas in the Lawrence N. Field DEC Center Forum on Dec. 7 to a panel of judges. A brief Q&A followed each seven-minute presentation. Finalists were scored on concept, research, storytelling, business model feasibility, and business model design and innovation.
Second place and the $500 prize went to Circalux, a team that featured three Sidney Kimmel Medical College students. They’re developing portable, user-responsive, circadian-friendly nightlights designed to give caregivers sleep-friendly light.
“The pitch was especially fun because I had the chance to interact with such a diverse panel of judges,” said medical student Lorenzo Albala. “I’m happy to have received validation from this community.”
Top Ram judges included Heather Rose, director of technology licensing at Jefferson’s Innovation Pillar; entrepreneur and investor Harvey Hoffman; Zoe McKinley, ESII director of the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp at Jefferson; Drew Morrisroe, president and CEO of IT management company CTN Solutions and a member of the University Board of Trustees; and Jenn Daug, manager of new business ventures at Jefferson’s Innovation Pillar.
“Bravo to all of the students who pitched at the Top Ram competition,” Daug said. “The teams presented thoughtful business models that addressed an unmet need for a wide variety of problems, from medical devices to social disparities in developing countries. I can’t wait to see which of these companies goes on to be the next success story from the Philadelphia region.”
Ideas ranged from a wearable platform for respiratory disease management to a company that provides underdeveloped communities with sustainable and affordable housing to a firm that uses recyclables to create art and puzzles for children and seniors.
“Top Ram gets the idea out the door,” said Abena Nyarko, program coordinator at Jefferson’s Blackstone LaunchPad, which presents Top Ram. “We want finalists to use this validation and feedback provided by the judges to build upon their business model and pursue the venture further.”
For example, the 2015 Top Ram winner, Renee Kakareka ’16, won for her assistive technology company Olive Devices. She was accepted to the Angel Venture Fair the following semester and went on to win $5,000 in the JAZ Tank pitch competition. She soon will have a final prototype ready for her smart glasses to help the hearing impaired.
Also in 2015, student entrepreneur Jordan DeCicco pitched his organic coffee energy drink company Sunniva. While DeCicco didn’t win Top Ram, he continued to develop his business with great success. He recently received a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship.