Engineering start-ups compete at statewide venture competition

Taraka Sai Pavan Grandhi (left) and Russell Urie, doctoral students in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, pitch their company Synergyan at the fourth annual Arizona Collegiate Venture Competition at the Arizona State University Innovation Center at Skysong on April 8. Photo by Hayden Taylor/ASU


Two Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering student-led start-ups earned $1,500 apiece for their ventures at the Arizona Collegiate Venture Competition (ACVC) at the ASU Innovation Center at Skysong on April 8.

The competition was sponsored by Hool Coury LawMAC6 and Draper University and included 11 student teams from Arizona State University, University of Arizona (UA), Northern Arizona University (NAU) and Grand Canyon University (GCU), who pitched to a panel of judges for $60,000 in cash prizes, a Draper University scholarship and the Territorial Cup trophy.

Tech Dispatcher and Synergyan, both led by engineering students, finished in third place, tying with two student ventures from GCU and one from NAU.

Tech Dispatcher’s pitch netted the team a $1,500 investment. Incubated in the Fulton Schools Startup Center’s eSeed Challenge, Tech Dispatcher is a new service aimed at providing hassle-free tech support to both businesses and individuals at the push of a button.

“ACVC was a great experience, and seeing what the other universities were working on was the most exciting part for us,” says Dallas Grantham, ASU alumnus and co-founder of Tech Dispatcher. “After it was all said and done, we learned that you better bring your ‘A’ game to any start-up competition here in Arizona — serious ventures are coming out of every single university.”

The tech support start-up earned its spot to compete in ACVC following a successful pitch to entrepreneur Tom Prescott, former president and CEO of Align Technologies Inc., on a trip to Silicon Valley that culminated the eSeed Challenge’s first year. Competing in ACVC provided another opportunity for the company to refine its pitch with feedback from investors and network with fellow entrepreneurs.

“We literally started as a phone-repair company, and while we always had IT in mind, we were just fixing iPhone screens to make enough cash to pay for our office in Tempe,” recalls Brandon Garrett, co-founder and aerospace engineering student. “Now we’re working with big businesses in Arizona and exploring new relationships. I think we’ve come a long way.”

Synergyan, a biosciences company with a focus on molecular and nanoscale bioengineering and synergistic therapies, also brought in $1,500 at the competition. It was co-founded by Fulton Schools doctoral students Russell Urie and Taraka Sai Pavan Grandhi, along with ASU associate professor Kaushal Rege and Senior Research Manager Mehul Patel, who serve as scientific and business advisers, respectively.

A product of ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, Synergyan is already hard at work to advance the technology for its first product idea, Welseal, a novel protein-based surgical adhesive biomaterial that promotes rapid healing of soft tissue tears.

“ACVC was a good learning experience for us in the entrepreneurial domain,” says Grandhi. “As for next steps, Synergyan is actively working toward setting up the company to pursue federal funding for furthering the research and development necessary for product development.”

At the competition, Worksphere from UA took the trophy home to Tucson and netted $5,500 along with a Draper University Scholarship. LetsChat, led by W. P. Carey School of Business students, placed second, earning $4,500 and will join Worksphere on the Draper University campus in Silicon Valley for an intensive seven-week course on entrepreneurship.

“If this year is any indication, I’m incredibly excited to what will come out the next eSeed Challenge round. I look forward to watching the existing teams develop further as well,” says Brent Sebold, director of the Startup Center.

Applications for the fall 2016 eSeed Challenge close at noon April 29.

More Business and entrepreneurship


Portrait of Pei-yu (Sharon) Chen

The business of ethically using artificial intelligence

Editor's note: This expert Q&A is part of our “AI is everywhere ... now what?” special project exploring the potential (and…

A silver umbrella on a flat maroon background

Assessing AI readiness

Editor's note: This expert Q&A is part of our “AI is everywhere ... now what?” special project exploring the potential (and…

Person looking at a computer screen.

ASU’s AZNext Program aims to shore up IT, business workforces with free virtual developmental courses

By Georgann YaraAfter he retired from the Marine Corps, John Black decided to tackle the business world. He formed an LLC…