4 Wharton Freshmen Win Major Venture Challenge

ToxiSense Co-Founder and COO Udit Garg presents to a panel of Wharton alumni judges at the Venture Lab Startup Challenge. Courtesy photo

Venture Lab Startup Challenge

The sixth-annual Venture Lab Startup Challenge was held April 29 in Tangen Hall–the University of Pennsylvania’s hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation, and at 68,000 square feet, the largest hub of its kind on a college campus. It was the first time in three years that the event was held in-person.

Eight finalist teams pitched their ventures in front of a panel of Wharton alumni all-star judges and a live audience of more than 200. Finalists advanced from a semi-final round of 30 teams who were chosen out of nearly 100 initial entrants. 2022 judges include Bikram Bakshi, MBA’05, Partner at Blu Ventures and formerly CEO of Optum Government (QSSI); Mona Bijoor, MBA’05, Founder at Sol TV and JOOR and Partner at Kings Circle Capital; Rob Goergen, MBA ’00, Founder and Chairman of G5 Capital; and Devo Harris, ’99, Founder of Adventr, co-founder of G.O.O.D. Music, and Grammy Award winner.

“The Startup Challenge is Venture Lab’s premier yearly event, showcasing Penn’s most promising teams of student entrepreneurs,” says Lori Rosenkopf, Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Simon and Midge Palley Professor at the Wharton School. “This year’s finalists included undergraduate and graduate students from across the University, and their products offered solutions for environmental, financial, health, and social challenges. These motivated teams capture the spirit of Penn entrepreneurship—innovative, interdisciplinary, inclusive—and we offer our congratulations and our optimistic wishes for their futures!”

Previous winners of the Startup Challenge include Coverforce, an online insurance platform developed for and by insurance agents, and Percepta, which creates ethical AI for unbiased shoplifting detection.

2022 Startup Challenge Finalist Teams

ToxiSense: An endotoxin testing technology for biopharmaceuticals and drinking water that uses a plant instead of horseshoe crab blood. Members: Aravind Krishnan, ’25, Udit Garg, engineering ’25; Andrew Diep-Tran, ’25; and Aarush Sahni ’25. Winner: 2022 Perlman Grand Prize ($50,000 plus $10,000 in legal, accounting and strategy services); 2022 Robert S. Blank New Venture Collaboration Award ($10,000); and 2022 Frederick H. Gloeckner Undergraduate Award ($10,000)

DetoXyFi: A for-profit social enterprise building water filtration devices to rid drinking water of chemical and microbial impurities. Members: Dhananjay Goel, MBA’22; Rishon Benjamin; and Rohit Karnik. Winner: 2022 Runner Up Award and ($15,000 plus $10,000 in legal, accounting, and strategy services0; and Jacobson Social Impact Prize ($10,000).

Groov: Bringin luxury custom insoles to the mass market–affordably, conveniently, and fashionably. Member: Daniel Cataldi, MBA ’23. Winner: 2022 Launch Award ($10,000 plus $10,000 in legal, accounting, and strategy services).

Impact Local: A mobile platform connecting users with local donating and volunteering opportunities in a few clicks. The platform brings modern search, curation, scheduling and social technologies to the philanthropy space for the first time. Member: Ryan Davidson, MBA ’22.

Miren: Empowering lenders to identify the best small business borrowers with its native-language first loan origination software and data services solutions. Member: Gabriela Ariana Campoverde, MBA ’22.

Nemu: Application to help estate representatives manage personal property transfers efficiently, fairly, and transparently, while preserving emotional and financial capital. Member: Sarah Powers, MBA ’23. Winner: 2022 Ashton Family Award for Female Founders ($10,000).

Ossum Technologies: An orthopedic device harnessing steerable needle technology to pass wires around bones, providing the precision required to navigate around surgical complications. Members: Karan Shah, engineering ’24; Ananya Dewan, ’23, Hoang Le, ’23; Shiva Teerdhala, ’23; and Savan Patel, ‘23. Winner: 2022 The Weiss Tech House People’s Choice Award ($10,000).

Shinkei Systems Corp: A robotics company minimizing fish waste and increasing shelf-life. Of the 1.2 billion of fish caught every day, as few as 1 in 3 fish make it to a plate. Member: Saif Khawaja. Winner: 2022 President’s Sustainability Prize, 2022 Linn Family Innovation Prize ($10,000 plus $10,000 in legal, accounting, and strategy services); and 2022 AI For Business Award ($10,000).