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Entrepreneurial ventures win more than $100K in funding at ASU Demo Day

Student's neurofeedback device for people with ADHD wins big again


Three people stand next to ASU mascot Sparky holding a check as one speaks into a microphone.

Biomedical engineering graduate student Michael Li tells the Demo Day crowd about his team's venture, Captavate. Next to Li is Captavate CEO and co-founder Abyssinia Bizuneh, also a biomedical engineering graduate student. Tracy Lea, director of venture development for the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute and emcee of the Demo Day awards ceremony on Saturday, is at right. Photo by Paula Soria/ASU News

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December 05, 2023

A venture to help people with ADHD created by a team of biomedical engineering students at Arizona State University continued to impress the entrepreneurs who judge the Demo Day pitch competition.

The venture, Captavate, won $20,000 at the fall 2023 Demo Day event on Saturday, after winning $40,000 at the spring Demo Day in April.

“I’m the example of ‘don’t give up,’” said Michael Li, a biomedical engineering graduate student who is chief operating office and co-founder of Captavate.

“For those just starting out, I was starting in the COVID cohort and we didn’t even make it to Demo Day and we were crying online.

“If you take every single moment, you’ll make it to this day. And it’s listening to all of those questions and all of that feedback and understand(ing) how to address that better the next time.”

Captavate was one of 60 entrepreneurial teams that pitched on Saturday as part of Venture Devils, a program to support ASU students, staff, faculty, alumni and community founders within the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at ASU. More than $100,000 was awarded. Venture Devils also get access to mentorship and space.

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.

The Venture Devils team
Venture Devils teams that won funding in the eSeed Challenge pose with Sparky and Tracy Lea (center), director of venture development for the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at ASU, during the Demo Day awards ceremony at SkySong on Saturday, Dec. 2. Photo by Paula Soria/ASU News

Like many entrepreneurial ventures, Captavate grew out of personal experience. When Abyssinia Bizuneh, CEO of Captavate and a biomedical engineering graduate student, was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, she decided not to take medication. She improved her focus by using neurofeedback therapy, a procedure that measures brain waves and provides real-time data about brain function so patients can train themselves.

Her experience led her to consider creating an at-home feedback headset for people with ADHD. She collaborated with her classmates Makenna Colton and Li in their senior capstone group to form Captavate.  

On Saturday, Bizuneh told the Demo Day awards ceremony crowd at SkySong that the $20,000 in funding will allow them to advance.

“This is something that, on top of the spring funding, is going to be a great catalyst for us to get involved in testing and being able to bring the solution out faster,” she said.

Captavate won in the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative funding track, which is for student-led ventures in early stages of development. Other winners in that group were the Molecules Company, a supplement and wellness tea company, $12,500; Lake Litter Solutions, a venture that invented a device to scoop trash out of Tempe Town Lake, $5,000; and Astro Seed, a company that makes gardening modules, $2,500.

Dakota Edwards, a mechanical engineering major, is CEO and founder of Lake Litter Solutions. His venture, which started as a project in the Engineering Projects in Community Service initiative, also won second place in the ASU Change the World event in the spring.

“The money is just so validating,” he told the crowd. “To be standing here on equal footing with all of these people is a dream come true.”

Other winners at Demo Day were:

Edson E+I Social Impact Venture Challenge: Moonbeam, a platform to facilitate discounts for military veterans, and Pick A Class, a platform that notifies students when a spot opens in a filled class, $10,000 each, and Sunny Wav, a venture that makes solar panels more efficient, and Hairtage, a hair products and supplements company for Black women, $7,500 each.

Edson E+I Health Venture Challenge: Comprehensive Rehab Services, which seeks to provide low-cost rehabilitation services and devices, especially prostheses, to physically challenged individuals, $10,000; Melts, $5,000; MyAlyce and Enchanted Baby, $2,500 each.

The eSeed Challenge track, supported by the Prescott Student Venture Fund, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Venture Devils, for early-stage student ventures: RECRUITid, $6,000; Verdantt Fresh, $4,000; Quantanx, Axoniverse and Allergy Voyage, $3,000 each; Obscure Spares, $2,000, and GoFolio, Hug Your Head Foundation, Heirway and Unius, $1,000 each.

The institute also gave $12,000 in funding to six entrepreneurs from the Balkan countries who visited ASU as part of the U.S. GIST Innovates the Balkans Program, an entrepreneurship incubator administered by ASU.

Top image: Biomedical engineering graduate student Michael Li tells the Demo Day crowd about his team's venture, Captavate. Next to Li is Captavate CEO and co-founder Abyssinia Bizuneh, also a biomedical engineering graduate student. Tracy Lea, director of venture development for the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute and emcee of the Demo Day awards ceremony on Saturday, is at right. Photo by Paula Soria/ASU News

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