by Lucia Maffei
Over the past years, Rough Draft Ventures – General Catalyst’s student-focused program backing founders at the university level – has backed many student companies our readers are familiar with, including Freebird, User Interviews and LogRocket.
According to the program, in 2017 RDV backed 11 new Boston-based companies across industries such as healthcare, travel, retail, security and productivity. Seven of these 11 teams have at least one female founder, and 10 out of 11 have co-founders who are students pursuing graduate degrees such as Ph.D.’s, Masters and MBAs.
Here’s a look at the new Boston-based students RDV backed in 2017 (descriptions provided by RDV and edited by BostInno):
Meetingbird (Harvard College)
Recognizing the opportunity for software to reinvent the calendar, brothers Henry (Harvard ’18) and Paul Dornier (Princeton ’17) teamed up to create Meetingbird, a tool that makes scheduling team meetings fast and easy by analyzing participant’s availability, meeting rooms, and other constraints to instantly find the perfect meeting time and location. Paul and Henry joined Y Combinator over the summer and are now signing up paid enterprise customers for their premium service. Today Meetingbird is available both as a standalone calendar web app and as a Chrome extension that brings your calendar into your Gmail inbox.
Former Appnexus software engineer Damjan Korac teamed up with Gerrit Orem (CPO) and Andrea Fantacone (COO) during their first year at Harvard Business School. Magpie allows online publishers to tag products from their content on the backend so readers can shop directly through any image, video, or app they come across. A consumer browsing their favorite website or app can click on the products they see in media, add them to Magpie’s native cart interface, and checkout, all without leaving the page.
Reverie Labs (Harvard College)
Jonah Kallenbach (Harvard College ’17) began working on the idea for Reverie in the final project for CS 281, Advanced Machine Learning, taught by Professor Finale Doshi-Velez as well as Harvard’s ES 95r, Startup R&D taught by Paul Bottino during his junior year. Reverie helps pharmaceutical companies improve their drug design pipelines. Their platform uses state of the art machine learning methods to screen massive libraries of small molecules and identify potential drug candidates.
HBS students Taylor Wiegele and Sierra Smith met as section-mates at HBS. Leveraging their classmates as a community of beta-testers, the two launched Zorpads, an odor-eliminating shoe insert based on patent-pending, NASA-tested technology. The one-size-fits-all Zorpad insert consists of a moisture absorbing liner, an odor absorbing carbon layer, and a no-residue adhesive. Each Zorpad costs just $5/pair and lasts over 60 wears.
Mayflower Ventures (MIT Sloan)
At MIT, Sloan Sam McElhinney and Wesley Ripley founded Mayflower Venue s based on the convergence of two beliefs. First, every couple deserves the chance to create a one-of-a-kind wedding to reflect their unique story. Secondly, gorgeous open spaces can be preserved by enabling them to host custom events. Mayflower provides exclusive access to rare open space venues – farms, orchards, gardens and more – that offer more customization and extraordinary settings than commercial venues. Users can browse prices, availability and 360° 4K drone footage of handpicked venues to find a space they love, and then easily book it online.
Elektra Labs (HBS)
Andy Coravos (HBS ‘17) and Dr. Sofia Warner (HMS/HBS ‘17) are looking to enable easier collection of real-time health metrics at home. While in school, they founded Elektra Labs, a search platform, making it easier to find, select, and eventually develop new digital biomarkers and sensors that can be used in remote research and care. Digital biomarkers are consumer-generated digital tools that can be used to explain, influence and /or predict health-related outcomes (e.g., digital EKGs, actigraphy, digital tremor tracking). They are publishing an open-source catalog of these sensors. The team recently partnered with the Computational Health and Informatics Program at Boston Children’s and is working with a number of biopharma partners. They are also backed by an NSF I-Corps grant.
Gregory Falco founded Neuromesh at MIT to bring better security to IoT. Leveraging his background as a Security Researcher for NASA JPL and work as an Adjunct Professor in machine learning at Columbia University, he set out to develop an unhackable security system for IoT devices that leverages the unique recipe of malware, machine learning and the bitcoin blockchain. Today they are working with the DoE, electric utilities and OEMs to customize our technology to their smart grid devices so that with NeuroMesh’s help, they can keep the lights on.
HBS students Marc Escapa and Emily Brockway met at the HBS New Venture Competition. The two founded Noken to simplify the travel experience, with a service that crafts memorable trips for groups of friends to explore new countries, on their own time and at their own pace. Noken lets you do less planning and more exploring — think of it as your personalized, curated tour guide in your pocket. With destinations like Iceland, Colombia, Cuba, Myanmar, and Portugal (coming soon), every Noken powered trip strives to be the easiest way to travel.
Sigma Ratings (MIT Sloan)
Sigma Ratings was founded by two MIT Sloan Fellows, Stuart Jones and Gabrielle Haddad. Stuart came to MIT to solve non-credit risk quantification after spending time at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Gabrielle came to MIT to help catalyze technology-based solutions to complex global problems after spending time as an executive in one of the world’s largest development finance organizations based in Switzerland. The two built Sigma Ratings to help make the world more open and transparent by incentivizing and highlighting good corporate behavior through building the world’s first non-credit rating agency. Sigma uses AI and machine learning to assess company-level non-credit risks (e.g., money laundering, corruption and terrorist financing).
Memora Health (HMS and Georgia Tech)
Founded by three Harvard Medical School and Georgia Tech students, Nisarg Patel, Kunaal
Naik and Manav Sevak, Memora Health seeks to mitigate the additional costs incurred
by preventable hospital readmissions with a conversational AI named Felix. Felix is a human-esque care manager that connects with patients over SMS to send discharge instructions, ask about general wellness, and track self-reported health data to provide personalized health coaching. Their risk assessment algorithm monitors and identifies trends in patient-reported symptoms in order to notify hospitals when a patient may be at risk of hospital readmission, prompting clinicians to take action.
Biobot Analytics is a hardware-enabled analytics company that measures pharmaceutical products, foods people eat, infectious disease, and the microbiome of communities—all in city sewage. The company’s first product is to provide cities with data on the opioid epidemic so that cities can evaluate public health programming and redistribute resources accordingly. Co-founders Mariana Matus, a Ph.D. candidate at MIT in Computational and Systems Biology, and Newsha Ghaeli, a research fellow at the school of urban studies and planning, have been working together for over five years to enable data-driven public health and urban management, drive drug discovery and propel microbiome therapeutics research.