News Release

Engineering students and alumni sweep Triton Entrepreneur Night

Triton Entrepreneur Night attendees (L-R) Ned Halicioglu ’01, computer science professor Rajesh Gupta and event judges Taner Halicioglu ’96 and Eric Gasser talk among the student business presentations.
Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

San Diego, Calif., June 7, 2018 -- Two teams led by students and alumni of the Jacobs School of Engineering won big at Triton Entrepreneur Night, the signature event of The Basement—an undergraduate business incubator founded in 2015 with support from alumni Jeff and Kim Belk ’83, Aryeh Bourkoff ’95, and Mark Suster ’91. 

Taylor Williams, a bioengineering student, pitches OsteoLux on stage at the pitch competition. She won second place out of 29 competitors.
Photo/Nick Trejo

The teams competitively pitched their ideas, Shark Tank style, to a panel of esteemed investors and entrepreneurs.

This year’s judges included Taner Halicioglu ’96, founder, Keshif Ventures and an alumnus of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Jacobs School; Allison Long Pettine ’04, founder, Crescent Ridge Partners and of SEED San Diego; Eric Gasser, founding partner, SEED San Diego; and Ryan Hodson, founding investor of several funds including Kodiak Capital, Sway Ventures and Yeats Investments. 

The judges selected two winning teams: 

Educational Vision Technologies (Accelerator Track) uses computer vision and deep learning algorithms to enhancing the learning experience. EVT’s CEO is Monal Parmar, who earned a bachelor’s in electrical and computer engineering and a master’s in intelligent systems, robotics and controls from the Jacobs School. 

Osteolux (Incubator Track) is an all-inclusive curing system for orthopedic surgeons to improve operating room efficiencies. Taylor Hall Williams and Allison Duchnak, both bioengineering undergraduates, co-founded the company after witnessing first-hand the challenge of curing bone cement during orthopedic surgery.

The winning teams from the Accelerator and Incubator tracks will receive $3,000 each plus $25,000 in legal services and additional noncash prizes from the event’s sponsors.

A child at the Enchanted Village takes a look at the solar lantern designed by UC San Diego undergraduate students. Photo courtesy of Global TIES.

This year’s Audience Choice Award, One Village Philippines, designs affordable and easily reproducible solar-powered street lamp to address the need for reliable outdoor lighting in rural areas. Their ultimate goal is to foster economic development and provide community members with a reproducible design that they can build themselves using readily available materials. The Audience Choice team will receive $1,000. The team is part of the Global TIES program at the Jacobs School.

The additional funding and connections to knowledgeable alumni give student entrepreneurs the opportunity to take their work a step further. “Winning TEN last year was a huge stepping stone for us. It opened up doors for the startup to continue to grow and gain traction,” says Ashna Shroff ’17, COO of last year’s winning team, Sin Fronteras Tax, a startup serving as an intermediary to bring speedy tax returns to international workers.

Tiny Socks and Security Blankets

Hapty Hearts co-founders Niranjanaa Jeeva ’19, Ella Stimson ’19 and Julie Yip ’18 display their prototype.

Among the other UC San Diego student teams at the Basement is Hapty Hearts, a startup working to support mothers through the challenges of the postpartum period founded by three bioengineering undergraduate students. One of the biggest trials, they’ve found, is perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), a set of mental health disorders that are common in pregnant women during pregnancy and after giving birth. “PMADs can affect women in low-income families and households at almost double the rate,” says co-founder Niranjanaa Jeeva ’19. “That was something that was just unacceptable.”

Jeeva and Hapty Hearts co-founders Ella Stimson ’19 and Julie Yip ’18 are currently prototyping a wearable device that would be available low-cost to families most affected by PMADs. Using haptic feedback, or touch feedback, the devices will connect mother and baby through heartbeat. The wearables will come in the form of a sock for baby and blanket for mother, and will help to alleviate the symptoms of PMADS, which can include anxiety and depression. The technology could have other applications in the future. “It might be good for children with autism who are having difficulty connecting with other people, or it could have potential for premature babies,” says Yip.

Hapty Hearts came to The Basement last year and is taking full advantage of the space’s mentorships, meeting spots, and prototyping tools to develop their brand. Their affiliation with The Basement has given them the opportunity to participate in events like UC San Diego & You: Silicon Valley, an alumni networking event where they met Albert P. Pisano, dean of Jacobs School of Engineering, who served as a user tester for their prototype. “It was the highlight of my college career,” said Jeeva.

Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering