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Inventions that improve lives are winners at the 2013 Newark Innovation Acceleration Challenge

Sensor equipment to help the visually impaired navigate more safely and a system for recycling computers efficiently were among the seven inventive business concepts to win seed funding from Capital One Bank and a spot in an intensive NJIT accelerator program at the fifth annual Newark Innovation Acceleration Challenge.

The winners were chosen from fourteen teams of rising entrepreneurs, divided equally between teams of college students from Newark-based institutions and teams of community-based entrepreneurs, to present business plans at the competition held at NJIT this week. The judges included executives from Capital One Bank, professionals from Newark-based businesses, local angel investors, and faculty and staff from NJIT.

The winning teams will each receive $3,000 in seed funding from Capital One Bank and participation next summer in the 10-week NJIT Summer Lean Innovation Accelerator Program utilizing the Capital One Bank Learning Lab at NJIT's Enterprise Development Center (EDC). New Jersey's oldest and largest technology and life sciences start-up incubator, the EDC has graduated over 85 successful businesses.

SenVis, the first-place finisher among four student-led teams to win funding and business development support at the competition, proposes integrating visual and proximity sensors in goggles, augmented canes, and wrist bands to help the visually impaired navigate. Fabio Arias of Caldwell, who presented the device, said his team was struck by the lag in technological improvements in basic navigation equipment and hoped to advance it.

"We still see most blind people walking with canes and dogs, indicating no real progress in navigation equipment despite advancements in technology. We felt it was time they had something better," Arias said, adding of the win, "It was such a rewarding feeling to know that people valued our idea. It definitely gives us more drive to keep developing it."

"This gives me the resources to launch my company, and it is such great motivation as well," said Omar Elmessalamy, an IT technician and adjunct faculty member at Essex County College who is developing a system to direct a higher percentage of computer parts to recyclers and away from landfills, where they leach toxic materials. His business plan for Elmes Recycling placed first among the three winning community-based teams.

The NJIT/Capital One Bank collaboration, now in its fifth year, aims to ignite business development in Newark by empowering budding entrepreneurs. The initiative is an extension of Capital One Bank's efforts to invest in economic opportunities for local individuals, families and businesses throughout New Jersey.

"The businesses that competed in the challenge represent the best of Newark an enterprising spirit, dedication and hard work and are the future of this community," said Daniel Delehanty, Senior Director, Community Development Banking, Capital One Bank. "Because fostering entrepreneurship is a driving force for economic development, our partnership with NJIT is one of the most meaningful ways that we support the Newark community, and it's an honor to be part of the fifth annual Capital One Bank Newark Innovation Challenge."

The finalists presenting at the event were chosen from nearly 60 applicants to submit business plans for review in the initial round of judging. The winning student teams from NJIT include:

  • SenVis, presented by Fabio Arias of Caldwell, proposes integrating visual and proximity sensors in goggles, augmented canes, and wrist bands to help the visually impaired navigate.

  • Tremra, presented by Miad Hadaegh of Carlsbad, Calif., is a device employing vibration technology to stabilize kinetic tremors in the hands and feet.

  • Koala Band, presented by Daniel Tanis of Bloomingdale, is a wireless, ambulatory diagnostic tool for performing in-home sleep studies.

  • S&D: Science and Dermatology, presented by Laura Osorno of Elizabeth, is a preventive therapeutic method for reducing stretch marks.

Michael Ehrlich, an associate professor of finance in NJIT's School of Management and the accelerator program's co-director, called the 2013 competitors particularly impressive.

"The judging for this year's NIAC finals was very difficult as this was the strongest pool of finalists yet. I look forward to working with these winners over the next summer, helping them to accelerate the time to market and revenue for their new business ventures," Ehrlich said.


Contact: Tanya Klein
New Jersey Institute of Technology

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