University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School
Industry: Healthcare Technology
Founding Student Name(s): Harshul Makwana (Business and Computer Science 2023), Kush Jain (Business and Economics Minor 2023), Alekhya Majety (Neuroscience 2023)
Brief Description of Solution: QUVI is the first device that can sanitize any reusable water bottle in under 30 seconds. It also can sanitize phones, keys, facemasks and other personal belongings, helping users keep safe from dangerous bacteria and pathogens on the surfaces of their belongings.
What led you to launch this venture? We quickly noticed that our difficulty in cleaning our bottles was the norm rather than the exception amongst college students. More importantly, we realized that this problem was both harmful and a vector for spreading diseases. After hours of research on UVC technology and informal interviews with students, we decided to develop the solution ourselves: QUVI.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? Developing a hardware product is far more difficult than it seems. Whether it was the engineering and ideation process or finding a reputable manufacturer, we found that each process took months of networking and grit to complete. Therefore, our biggest accomplishment is likely being able to complete our final product. A close second is receiving great reviews from our beta customers for our prototype pilot this summer.
How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? Being business students has taught us both about being entrepreneurially-minded, but also given us access to great resources and mentors at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Being able to take classes on business strategy and entrepreneurial finance gave us the technical background to succeed in the startup world.
Through UNC Kenan-Flagler, we have met incredible mentors like Sarah Plasky, CEO and founder of Aquavation and an Entrepreneur in Residence at UNC. Her expertise in starting her own company and connections provided great guidance throughout QUVI’s development process. We worked with amazing professors, like Tim Flood and Ted Zoller, to help develop our company and product. We have also had access to UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Entrepreneurship Center, which was one of the first sources of funding our company received. This funding helped to develop the first-generation prototype and enabled us to conduct pilot testing.
Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Strategic Management, which focuses on business strategy through the lens of case studies, was probably the most valuable course for our venture. Understanding the core concept of strategy and how to adapt your strategy to the competitor environment helped us find our company’s niche. The S’well case we reviewed also gave us a unique perspective on how the CEO bootstrapped the development of her product, and how we could do the same for our venture.
What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professors Tim Flood and Ted Zoller have been a great resource to QUVI, especially in advising our team on key strategic partnerships. With their help, we were able to identify our niche market of college students as well as meet with university leaders.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our vision is to have QUVI’s at gyms, universities, airports and other public areas across the U.S. We want to make sanitizing easy and accessible to all, especially students who have a large need for it. Eventually, we want people to use QUVI so often that it becomes an integral part of their daily routine.
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