In anticipation of the final round of the 2018 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for the $15,000 Grand Prize on March 6 in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.
Erich Meissner, CEO
Maria Chen, CMO
Kyle Liu, CTO
Senior electrical engineering major Erich Meissner came up with the idea for a new kind of wearable fall detection device after his grandmother experienced a fall. He learned from her doctor that over 40% of senior falls are due to syncopy, a sudden loss of consciousness, which isn’t solved by common fall notification systems like Life Alert that require users to press a button. Furthermore, his grandmother had a Life Alert but wasn’t wearing it at the time—many seniors feel these devices carry an unwanted stigma advertising their loss of independence. Teaming up with junior pre-med student Maria Chen and sophomore computer science major Kyle Liu, Erich launched Symbiont Health to tackle the issue of unconscious elderly falls. In 2017, they competed in the Do Good Challenge and took second place in the Ventures track, then participated in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders Accelerator. Leading up to Pitch Dingman Competition Finals, Symbiont Health has tested more subtle wearable devices as well as WiFi Mesh Networking solutions to detect falls.
DC: Have there been some key decisions or milestones along the way that have led you from an idea to now pitching for $15K?
Team: Our team decided to get cracking right away. We began prototyping within the first weeks after joining together and brought the concepts to multiple retirement homes. These partnerships have brought us to this point in our startup. Symbiont Health is now looking to sell a new product that is completely hands off and does not require seniors to constantly wear a device.
DC: What have you learned from the semifinals that will help you better prepare for Finals?
Team: The new WiFi mesh networking solution is difficult to explain. It is a cutting edge technology, and we must explain it in simpler terms. The system works like sonar, tracking moving objects in a room and identifying people as they fall. Our team wants the promise of this technology to resonate with the audience and the judges.
DC: What has Symbiont Health been working on since Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals?
Team: Our team has been expanding our business since the Semifinals. We continue to sell our wearable devices as they proved effective. However, the new system will tackle the issue more holistically and will attract more customers. The algorithm belongs to the University of Maryland and is intellectual property that an engineering professor built here. We are working as a tech transfer company to bring UMD IP to market.
DC: What are some goals you are looking to reach before Finals?
Team: Before the finals, we want to have the system up and running in the same memory care community that we have always worked with. We want to demonstrate a working product at the Finals and have a sound revenue model predicted for the next 3 months. Symbiont Health wants to generate $30,000 more in revenue by the end of Summer 2018.
DC: If you win Pitch Dingman Competition, what will you do with the $15,000?
Team: With the $15,000, we will begin selling the WiFi mesh network solution to our interested customers. We can sell the first devices at cost to early adopters as we work out any initial issues with the product. Finally, there are some legal fees associated with the licensing of this technology.