MEPC 2021-2022 kicks off – USC Viterbi

Playbook VR is one of twelve teams participating in this year’s MEPC. (Image courtesy of Playbook VR)

To many of us, virtual reality (VR) may seem like a concept straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie. But the recent explosion in VR technology and applications tells a different story: the “age of VR” is already here.

Virtual reality has the potential to completely revolutionize the way we use and interact with technology, making it a promising and exciting space for forward-looking developers. The technology has applications ranging from games and entertainment to healthcare, retail, tourism, military training, education, and more. But the novelty of this technology means that designing for the virtual domain can be really difficult. The process can be frustrating and messy – it requires a lot of programming and coding knowledge, and there are few established standards or guidelines. Web and mobile application designers interested in virtual reality may find that their two-dimensional design skills are not applicable to designing immersive three-dimensional environments.

Members of startup Playbook VR, a team from this year’s Maseeh Entrepreneurship Award competition, or MEPC, believe they have a solution.

The Playbook VR team – consisting of Ryan Mitchell, senior at USC Viterbi with a major in computer science; JD LeRoy and Skylar Thomas, both seniors at USC Iovine and Young Academy; and Steph Ng, Senior AR Engineer at USC Immersive Media Lab, graduated from USC Iovine and Young Academy last spring, hopes to create a simple and intuitive virtual reality design tool that will allow anyone to create reality experiences. virtual, without requiring coding or other. basic knowledge. According to Thomas, Playbook gives VR developers a simpler and cleaner way to design and create VR experiences. For the traditional web designer looking to step into the VR space, Playbook offers transition tools and training to help bridge the gap between 2D design and 3D design.

To validate their concept and understand customer needs, members of Playbook VR joined MEPC. Over the next four months, Playbook VR and 11 other student-led teams at USC Viterbi will work to hone their business plan, partnering with mentors to guide and advise them, and participating in workshops on topics such as client discovery, intellectual property and investor pitch. . The National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (“I-Corps”) program will provide the workshop program.

“We’re still in the early stages right now,” said JD LeRoy, member of the Playbook VR team. “We have developed a prototype, but we still have a lot of logistical questions about fundraising and legalities and all the other things that we need to take into account in order to bring Playbook to market. We really look forward to getting some of these questions answered through the MEPC.

Thomas, a member of the Playbook team, added, “We are thrilled to have the chance to connect with other Founders, as well as to have access to all the support and resources that USC Viterbi has to. to offer. “

On Tuesday, December 7, the 12th anniversary edition of the MEPC officially kicked off on Zoom. At the event, the budding entrepreneurs met for the first time their team mentors, who will support them in translating their ideas into viable businesses.

“This competition aims to inspire students at USC Viterbi to develop solutions to many global challenges by helping them cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit and providing them with the tools they need to turn innovative ideas into successful startups. USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos said. his opening remarks.

“The goal of MEPC is to get students to think like entrepreneurs,” said Denise McKenzie, who will be the lead instructor for this year’s competition. “Often, founders, especially engineers, develop quality technology or service without thinking about its place in the market. The MEPC helps founders understand the needs of potential customers and create customer-based solutions.

McKenzie, instructor for the NSF I-Corps program and lecturer at USC Viterbi, will lead this year’s program alongside Hovig Tchalian, assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship at USC Marshall School of Business, and Rob Schoeben, professor. entrepreneurship assistant at USC Marshall Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

The stake of the competition is a grand prize of $ 50,000, as well as access to free legal services, offered by DLA Piper, for the top four finalist teams. Each of the twelve teams will also receive a $ 500 Client Discovery Grant. This year’s final will take place on April 29, 2022.

The 2021-22 MEPC cohort includes startups in fields ranging from artificial intelligence to healthcare to real estate.

Nullanet, for example, aims to make artificial intelligence ubiquitous at low cost. InSpecula, SARL will work to refine the design of the vaginal speculum to improve the patient experience during pelvic exams. Real exchange hopes to empower homebuyers to navigate and manage the home buying process on their own. MicroMaterna works to reduce preventable childbirth-related deaths from preeclampsia, especially, but not exclusively, in low-resource settings.

“We joined the MEPC because of its reputation for mentoring and guidance, as well as its historic propensity to develop exceptional products,” said Nick Enriquez, junior specializing in biomedical engineering at USC Viterbi and member of the ‘MicroMaterna team.

“We hope to be able to bring our expertise and our unique goals to this year’s cohort, and develop our product and successfully reduce maternal mortality,” he added. Enriquez is joined by three other BME students from USC Viterbi – Kristian Bostic, Sabrina Sy and Vy Ho – to complete the MicroMaterna team.

MEPC, founded in 2010 with a million dollar endowment from entrepreneur Fariborz Maseeh, has become one of the university’s premier business model competitions for USC Viterbi and other students, professors and other potential entrepreneurs. To bring more business training to the competition, USC Viterbi is partnering with the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC Marshall.

Over the past decade, MEPC has launched several promising companies.

MEPC 2021 winner Watershield has created a bio-inspired water barrier, made from silicone-based polymers that adhere to the skin without the use of chemical irritants, to provide cancer patients with a shower experience more comfortable and infection-proof.

MEPC 2020 winner GrayMatter Robotics uses AI to create intelligent and rapidly deployable robotic assistants to automate high-mix manufacturing tasks, improve quality of life for industrial workers and increase productivity . The 2019 winner, AIRBOND, now known as Apogee Composites, designed a cheaper and more efficient way to produce carbon fiber composite materials for aviation and other industries.

Thermal View Monitoring, the 2017 winner, developed an image guidance system that provides a real-time 3D temperature map during thermal ablation therapy, saving time and money by allowing physicians to take quality images directly in the operating room. AesculaTech, the 2016 finalist, develops and manufactures a platform of intelligent temperature-sensitive materials for use in medical devices, including the treatment of dry eye. After MEPC, AesculaTech received an invitation from Y Combinator, the famous Bay Area business incubator.

Second Spectrum, the 2013 winner, analyzes big data to better understand athletic performance, such as what constitutes a good defense and a good offense in basketball. Currently, all NBA teams receive Second Spectrum optical tracking data, which feeds into next-generation analytics.

Posted on January 3, 2022

Last updated on January 3, 2022


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