image title

Entrepreneurial ventures win more than $330K in funding at ASU Demo Day

ASU ventures in medical tech, social impact win thousands in funding at Demo Day
April 27, 2023

Students' neurofeedback device for people with ADHD is a top winner

Like many entrepreneurs, Abyssinia Bizuneh’s great idea grew out of personal experience.

When Bizuneh, a biomedical engineering major at Arizona State University, was diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, she decided to forego stimulant medication. Instead, she used neurofeedback therapy, a procedure that measures brainwaves and provides real-time data about brain function so patients can train themselves.

“After 10 sessions, I saw improvement in reading comprehension and my ability to sit down and do homework got better,” she said.

Her experience, combined with what she was learning in her major, led her to consider creating an at-home feedback device for people with ADHD. She collaborated with her classmates in her senior capstone design group to form Captavate, and their venture was the big winner at the spring 2023 Demo Day pitch competition on April 22, scoring $40,000 in funding.

Captavate, of which Bizuneh is the CEO, was one of 77 startups that pitched as part of Venture Devils, a program to support ASU students, staff, faculty, alumni and community entrepreneurs within the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at ASU. A total of $332,500 was awarded in seven funding tracks this semester – the most ever. Venture Devils teams also get access to mentorship and space.

At first, Bizuneh’s idea was just to create the feedback experience.

“I had the idea of having it as a practical device where when you do homework it would tell you when you were distracted, but I didn’t think it would work,” she said.

But after a lot of work with her team and some help from her psychologist, they came up with a plan.

Captavate is prototyping an EEG headset that will be connected to an app. Users wear the headset while doing homework or other focused activity and receive a haptic vibration when the device senses that their focus is wandering.

So far, the team has the software and EEG components, and they will spend the summer integrating and refining the device as well as working toward filing a utility patent.

Bizuneh is graduating this semester and will start in the biomedical engineering master’s program in the fall.

“A lot of our biomedical engineering classes drive us toward creating new devices and ideas on how to solve medical issues and conditions,” she said.

“With that background, going into the biofeedback and thinking about our senior design problem, it made sense to do this because it could have a lot of impact.”

Captavate won in the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative funding track, which is for student-led ventures in early stages of development. All of the funded ventures in this group are eligible for follow-up funding and additional support at the fall 2023 Demo Day. Other winners in that group were Thrively Foods, which develops innovative food and beverage products, $30,000; and Canned Goods, which creates sustainable food packaging, $20,000. There were six $10,000 winners: Astro Seed, DocYou, Foodtrax, Greenloop, Lake Litter Solutions and the Molecules Company.

Other winners at Demo Day were:

Edson E+I MedTech Venture Challenge: MTology Innovations, a male contraceptive venture led by Candace Pless, a graduate student in industrial engineering and the MBA program in the W. P. Carey School of Business, won $10,000. Other winners were Visven, $5,000; Medvise, $3,000; and Koko Ni and Smart Stryder, $1,000 each.

Edson E+I Social Impact Challenge: These ventures are often a nonprofit entity or for-profit venture with a social mission such as sustainability, circular economy, health, education or community development. This track is supported by Good Work Capital, Canon Solutions America and anonymous donors. Two ventures won $15,000 each: Archeate Health Innovation, started by engineering undergraduates Benjamin Voller-Brown and Michael Li, who created a repair kit for malaria mosquito nets; and Xiga Money, a platform for people to send and receive money to Africa, started by Gibson Sigauke, a student in the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU. Other winners were EquiBraille and HAIRTAGE, $10,000 each; Hug Your Head Foundation, $5,000; and PLANponics, $2,500.

The eSeed Challenge: This track, supported by the Prescott Student Venture Fund, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Venture Devils, is for early-stage student ventures. Concious Gear, a line of outdoor-activity clothing for larger-sized people founded by Charlotte Bowens, administrative director for the Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics at ASU, won $7,000. Other winners were Keruki Studios and LaundryBud, $5,000 each; ARCHHUNTERS and Tenance, $2,000 each; Lafellus and Contak, $1,500 each; and Heirway, $1,000.

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Scholarship Entrepreneurship Fund: Mastercard Foundation Scholars, who come to ASU from Africa to complete their degrees, are expected to return to their home countries equipped to empower their communities. This year’s $50,000 funding allocation was twice as much as previous years. Cocoa Potash, a recycling venture, and Godsway’s Agri House Limited, a venture to increase food security, both won $8,000. Other winners were: Bojuf Solutions, Sua IT, Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services and Toda Healthy Beverages, $6,000 each; and Best Tech Point, Career Genie, Emicon Group, Hope for Cameroon, Parantaa Africa Foundation, Tegridy Farms and Zyleme, $1,000 each. In addition, six ventures did not compete in Demo Day but were awarded $500 each.

Sarsam Family Venture Challenge: This track is open to any ASU-affiliated ventures. Winners were Daydule, $10,000; Effy, $5,000; Uplighten, $3,000; and iWaandr, $2,000.

Veteran Ventures: PLANponics, $5,000; Sua IT, $3,500; and SexGenMD, $1,500.

The Hug Your Head Foundation, which won $5,000, is another venture created out of personal experience. In 2016, Lukas Karlsson was struck by a car while he was riding a motorcycle and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Years later, Karlsson, and his sister, Elizabeth Karlsson, a biomedical science major, formed the nonprofit group to raise awareness about TBI and provide support resources.

Lukas Karlsson, a business communication major, said that winning the money was unbelievable.

“I am a TBI survivor turned advocate myself and to bring awareness to this invisible disability and for my sister and I to help survivors and other families out there going through a similar experience, it means the world to us,” he said.

Elizabeth Karlsson said it’s amazing to have a winning venture with her brother.

“He’s one of my best friends, and the thought of losing him – I never want another sibling to go through that.”

Top image: Sparky joins Abyssinia Bizuneh and Michael Li, both biomedical engineering majors, after they won $40,000 for their entrepreneurial venture Captavate at the spring 2023 Demo Day pitch event at SkySong on April 22. Photo by Samantha Chow/ASU News.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


Labriola National American Indian Data Center turns 30

How gift from Frank and Mary Labriola to establish ASU Indigenous library continues to make an impact

April 27, 2023

On April 1, 1993, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center was created within the Arizona State University Library to serve as a national repository of Native American documents and materials and to provide access to this information through computer databases. Now in its 30th year, the Indigenous library has become an essential resource for the ASU community. 

“From a collection of Indigenous books to an Indigenous knowledge zone within the library, the Labriola Center seeks to connect book smarts with Indigenous ways of knowing,” said Alexander Soto, director of the Labriola Center. “Through our physical spaces, research services, collections, programming and adherence to community stewardship and protocols, the Labriola Center is showing the impact that Indigenous libraries have for student success and community building.” A group of people standing and kneeling, smiling for the camera. Attendees pose at a Lo-Fi Study Session at Hayden Library in November 2022. Photo courtesy Labriola Center Download Full Image

The center was made possible by the vision and generosity of Frank and Mary Labriola. Frank Labiola served as founder and chief executive of Pimalco (Pima Aluminum Company), one of the first major companies located on the Gila River Indian Community. 

The Pimalco workforce consisted of members of the Gila River Indian Community. The Labriolas saw a need for an Indigenous library, and they proceeded to set aside funds and a scholarship for American Indian students at ASU.

“We owe gratitude to Frank and Mary Labriola for their generosity in underwriting the creation of the Labriola Center,” said Jacob Moore, associate vice president of tribal relations. “We recognize the Labriolas for giving back to tribal communities based on their personal longstanding relationship with the Gila River Indian Community.”

On the center’s dedication plaque, Frank and Mary Labriola wrote, “We would like to see the Labriola Center be an expression of our friendship and respect for the Indian people and a symbol of working together. It is our wish that the Labriola Center be a source of education and pride for all Native Americans."

“Thirty years later, that original vision came to fruition in ways that couldn’t have been imagined then,” Moore explained. “There were many people that came along to sustain this vision, including Joyce Martin, Peterson Zah, Simon J. Ortiz, and many other scholars and individuals who have contributed towards the rich collections that are respectfully curated by the center. With Jim O’Donnell’s guidance, Alex Soto and his team are poised to further expand the ways that the Labriola Center can serve American Indian students and tribal communities.”

Additional support for the center was later provided by the Alcoa Foundation and the National Education Association. As the only Indigenous-led library center within a doctoral research university in the United States, the Labriola Center celebrates and critically engages with American Indian and Indigenous scholarly works and creative writing.

Joyce Martin, associate librarian and head of the social sciences division team at the ASU Library, worked at the Labriola Center from 1999 until 2020 and experienced the impact of hosting Indigenous scholars and programs.

“I truly enjoyed working with the Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture and Community where I was able to meet many amazing scholars from across various disciplines, all of whom were friends with the remarkable Professor Simon Ortiz,” Martin said. “Professor Ortiz’s ideas tie so closely with the ASU Charter many years prior to the charter’s existence. The Labriola Center pushed the boundaries for public programming and student engagement, and this lecture series was just one of many examples.”

Newsletters displayed in a holder on a small table with bookshelves and stacks in the background

“Before I joined the Labriola, it was especially difficult to find community with other Native students in classes or around campus,” said ASU student and Labriola Center student archivist Lourdes Pereira. “As the Labriola has grown, it has also become a space where I can engage with other Indigenous students and receive that sense of community while being away from home.” Photo by Kyle Knox

The center in Hayden Library has hosted an array of events, from poetry readings to thesis defenses and student groups to film screenings. Highlights include hosting two Navajo Code Talkers with a traveling exhibit and establishing the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award in 2008. 

“Many amazing professionals worked in the Labriola Center as student employees. It is impossible for me to sum up how much I appreciate all the people I’ve met,” Martin said. “Thank you to all who allowed me to be a part of this amazing center, and I cannot wait to see what the next 30 years bring with Alex and his entire team.”

Building on this foundation, Soto was named the first Indigenous director in 2021 and expanded the center’s full-time personnel fourfold. This capacity has allowed the Labriola Center to enact Indigenous librarianship. The center has strengthened its success and engagement with students and the community, from events such as the Ribbon Skirt Workshops, Lo-Fi Study Sessions, Open Mic Nights and Knowledge from the Land series to a $1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to support archival partnerships with tribal nations. 

“We have opened up our library to be a community resource,” Soto said. “Notable collaborations include our partnership with Arizona Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education and Arizona Humanities to host the Changing the Narrative: K–12 Indigenous Literature and Literacy Symposium. We also partnered with Professor Melissa K. Nelson and (the Julie Ann Wrigley) Global Futures Laboratory for the Intercultural Well-Being: Indigenous Innovations and Design gathering. Our program coordinators, Eric Hardy and Yitazba Largo-Anderson do an incredible job at communicating how the Labriola Center cultivates spaces of healing and possibility for the Indigenous community at large."

The center has a long history of being a critical resource and support for ASU faculty and instructors, especially Indigenous scholars

Myla Vicenti Carpio, director of graduate studies and associate professor of the American Indian Studies course, has seen enormous changes at the center throughout her time at ASU.

“When I first arrived at ASU, Labriola was a space primarily focused on archival collections and research,” Vicenti Carpio said. “Joyce moved the Labriola to a more welcoming, accessible and student-friendly library for all students, faculty and ASU Native events. I remember how Joyce generously opened up Labriola for various Indigenous poets, presentations and conference receptions.”

Vicenti Carpio recalled when Soto was an ASU student and how he worked to expand the possibilities of what a library could be.

“When Alex was a student in American Indian studies, I think we all saw his passion for Indigenous rights, sovereignty and culture,” Vicenti Carpio explained. “It is exciting to see how that passion and vision now gives rise to a true paradigm shift where a library center is built on a dynamic framework of Indigenous values and protocols, archival data sovereignty and Indigenous community partnerships.” 

As technology continues to advance, libraries must play a critical role in Indigenous data sovereignty. Adding archivist Vina Begay to the team last year provides dedicated expertise to safeguard and steward Indigenous knowledge within higher education institutions. 

“We need more Indigenous librarians and archivists — and allies — who will help our communities to navigate the increasingly complex world of data sovereignty and to better control and assert ownership over our own information,” said Michelle Hale, assistant professor of American Indian studies. “Alex has brought to the conversation important considerations about the ethical and responsible use of information by and about Indigenous communities; he works to foster awareness of the role of the university library as a good steward of Indigenous information, an important step in building and maintaining respectful relationships and trust between Indigenous communities and libraries. Labriola is a place where the Indigenous community can gather to share culture, and to be our Indigenous selves, through food, music, literature and art, and the exchange of ideas.”  

Hale notes how the center has been a leader in building trust with Indigenous communities and helping people teach, learn and access information.

“For the scholarly community, Labriola is on the cutting edge of Indigenizing search tools, terminology and research methodology by working closely with scholars, listening to Indigenous communities and applying lessons from disciplines like American Indian studies,” Hale said. “Labriola ensures that Indigenous communities are not left behind. Instead, Indigenous communities are included and empowered in the university library of tomorrow.”

The meaningful library services the center provides from its all-Indigenous staff support the next generation of Indigenous excellence at the center’s spaces on the Tempe campus in Hayden Library and on the West campus. 

Lourdes Pereira (Hia-Ced O'odham and Yoeme) was the first student archivist Soto hired when he joined the library and has worked in the Labriola Center for four years. 

“Before I joined the Labriola, it was especially difficult to find community with other Native students in classes or around campus,” said Pereira. “As the Labriola has grown, it has also become a space where I can engage with other Indigenous students and receive that sense of community while being away from home.”

Pereira, who will graduate this spring, has also worked with the Community-Driven Archives Initiative to help her tribe, the Hia-Ced O’odham, gain federation recognition.

Labriola has absolutely changed my life in unexpected ways and has given me a chance to help my community,” Pereira said. “I can’t imagine my life without ever getting the opportunity of working here, because I know for a fact I wouldn't be who I am today without it.”

With commencement approaching and another semester in the books, the team is ready to celebrate this milestone and envision the next 30 years. 

“I am excited for the next chapter of Labriola’s history since we now have foundational staff and space to support the growing ASU Indigenous community,” Soto said. “We hope to push the definition of what a library can be for Indigenous peoples. We look forward to sharing more about our role at ASU and may even have a few surprises for the community. Stay tuned!”

Marilyn Murphy

Communications Specialist, ASU Library