Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Inventors Hailed at Working Weekend

Thanks to three Reedies who took top prize at the second annual StartUp Lab, biology students may soon find a new source of relief during their long hours in the lab.

Connor LaBean ’14, Anjuli Dharna ’14, and Ben Stephens ’14 were awarded $2,500 to help propel Genebot, a robotic lab assistant, from conception to reality.

Led by Bay-Area technology entrepreneur Lucas Carlson ’05, the StartUp Lab was an intensive simulation of the process of creating and selling an idea. Students worked with entrepreneurs and investors who helped them incubate ideas for start-up companies and strategize ways to bring the products to market. The Lab squeezed all the steps of an entrepreneur—inspiration, development, honing, and the pitch to an investor–into three short days, without ever leaving Vollum Hall.

The idea for Genebot came last summer after LaBean spent countless hours pipetting solutions in a Duke University lab for cloning experiments. A platform for DNA-sequence handling and cloning, Genebot would eliminate much of the manual labor from genetics research. It is capable of sharing data for open-source experiments and is projected to be marketable at a cheaper price than current alternatives. Currently, says LaBean, high-volume research is limited to biotech companies. Genebot would make such research affordable to institutions of lesser means and enable graduate students and interns to spend more of their time doing science.

Agora, pitched by Joseph Warren ’13 and Jacob Canter ’14. Agora (“marketplace” in Greek) is a mobile phone-enabled payments system for small and local businesses. Studying monetary economics, Joseph realized how small businesses are hampered by the relatively high transition costs of accepting credit cards. The Agora phone application would enable consumers to browse products from local businesses, making purchases through an Agora account.

By eliminating credit cards as the middleman, not only do consumers save money, Jacob says, they support both small businesses and local communities.

Chuks Emmanuel Enemchukwu ’16 proposed Maaha Edu, an open-source social platform accessible via mobile phones that would directly connect students in Anglophone West Africa to knowledge. By making learning more accessible Chuks hopes this innovation can help to alleviate the high failure rate in the region's schools.

Also making it to the final round but unable to present due to illness was Emily Crotteau ’13, whose start-up idea, Green Almanac, would establish a program to educate first-time gardeners.

StartUp Lab was part of Working Weekend, a partnership between alumni and Reed’s career services office. The event drew 82 alumni volunteers back to campus to help students and recent grads get a leg up on their future careers.

Tags: Working Weekend, StartUp Lab