Guest Blog: My Friend’s Startup

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Hey everyone! This week I wanted to share with you an example of the awesome things USC students achieve. My friend Alexa and her team have been working on a project all year and are almost ready to file for patents and start a company before they even graduate, so I asked her to write a guest blog! I hope you like it!

My name is Alexa Hudnut and I’m a senior majoring in Biomedical Engineering at USC with Steve. We met freshman year in the dorms, where he lived one floor above me. He asked that I write a guest blog post this week about a group project I’m trying to turn into a startup.

Check out our cool logo!

Check out our cool logo!

I think every engineering student wants to create a startup in some capacity. We all believe that we have the skills it takes to be the next Steve Jobs, although we might not say it out loud. By senior year at USC, I’ve worked on several projects that challenged me to create a novel device and develop it to different levels. I’ve even had the opportunity to take a couple of ideas to the Alfred E. Mann Institute and the Stevens Institute.

This spring Steve and I are taking BME 499, a course that’s being tried as an extension of the senior design program within Biomedical Engineering department. We were presented with six projects and asked to work for seven weeks to design a technical solution with the aim of giving explicit enough directions for prototyping. I worked with another senior in Biomedical Engineering to create an artery locator for a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or as we sometimes jokingly refer to it: “a stud finder for arteries in the NICU.”

Our product needs to be easy to use and safe for newborns in the NICU

Our product needs to be easy to use and safe for newborns in the NICU

At first, I was convinced that there was no market for the device and it was beyond my technical expertise. However, I continued to look at the problem with my partner, and the more we looked my mind started to change. The biggest turning point was at a brainstorming session when a PhD student explained the technical side to us a little more. It seemed feasible and so we started meeting with him on a weekly basis to discuss our project idea and get his input.

Eventually we pursued a different project, but I decided this project had teeth, so we decided to pursue it further in our BME 416 course (Development and Regulation of Medical Products). Over the next six weeks we were challenged to look into the regulatory and financial future of our project. We learned a lot very quickly about the project outside of the confines of technical development. We are still working on this presentation and we’re going to present it to our class on May 3.

The classroom where it all began! I love small classes like this because it's easy to brainstorm and pursue multiple ideas

The classroom where it all began! I love small classes like this because it’s easy to brainstorm and pursue multiple ideas or research together like we’re doing here

Outside of class we’re working to take our project to the next level. I’ve been focused on finding and applying to grants, and we’re almost done with our Viterbi Start Up Garage application. The Viterbi Student Innovation Institute is a great resource that you should check out if you’re looking to start your own company.

We have a big week coming up where we’re going to meet with the USC Steven’s Institute to talk about filling our preliminary patent application. We’re also meeting with three potential investors and presenting our scale model to the physician we’ve been working with all term. It’s all very exciting, and pretty unreal. If you want to keep updated you can follow us on Twitter: @InDepthNICU or like our page on Facebook.

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