Student entrepreneurs competed for funding at Stony Brook University’s fifth annual WolfieTank on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Charles B. Wang Center.
The event is meant to be a spin-off of the popular television show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs present their product to a panel of judges, hoping to win funding to expand their businesses. More than 90 people showed up.
Six groups competed in total, with products that encompassed cosmetics, fitness watches, oyster farms and networking apps.
Nicole Hershkowitz, a senior biomedical engineering major who led a student biomedical engineering group, won the $2,000 grand prize for their surgical adaptor tool called Apto. The tool is meant to be put over retractor tools, which are surgical instruments used by doctors to separate the edges of an incision or wound and hold back organs and tissues so other body parts can be accessed during surgery. The invention is meant to alleviate the damage done by retractors in surgeries at hospitals today by placing 3-D printed sleeves over the adaptor, which ease the tension placed on the instrument.
Sishir Pasumarthy, a senior biomedical engineering major and a member of the Apto team, said that their company is planning to spend the winnings on preclinical testing to see if their product works on animals. Eventually, they want to test Apto on humans.
Pasumarthy emphasized that WolfieTank is important for prospective entrepreneurs because it allows students to pitch their ideas — a first time experience for a lot of young entrepreneurs.
“It was our first experience with entrepreneurship and working in a professional setting,” he said. “To push a product to people who do not know essentially about the science interested in our product is one of the most important things… to be able to jump in and learn from the experience is very valuable because no pressure, no diamonds, right?”
Sharon Kim, the Lead of Outreach and Communications of iCREATE, the program that runs WolfieTank, pointed out that WoflieTank’s embrace of different studies can help a variety of Stony Brook students gain insight into the business world.
“I think having this creative, entrepreneurial atmosphere and culture on campus is important because there are a lot of business majors here,” she said. “And it doesn’t even need to be business. We have people from science, cosmetics, and people from the actual business field. It is a helpful community to be building at Stony Brook… to gain insight on the young entrepreneurial spirit.”
David Ecker, the director of iCREATE, said that WolfieTank provides students with a learning experience that they may not receive in their classes and gives them the exposure they need to be successful in their field.
“It’s more than just getting the prize money, it’s helping them grow as students as people in their business and moving things forward,” Ecker said.
The second place winner was Ethan Dountey, owner of Dune Fishery. He pitched an expansion to his oyster farm, so that he could maximize production and better compete with other oyster farms on Long Island. Previously, because of a lack of funding, he could not buy more cages to put more oysters on the market. Dountey was concerned about the pace of his work and the number of cages he had to grow these oysters. He plans to use his prize money, $500, to buy more cages for growing oysters.
A social entrepreneur honorary mention was also given to Jenny Xu and Anthony Xiang, creators of the app Hacker Matcher that seeks to match groups in hackathon events. Individuals with similar ideas are sorted into groups. Hackathons are events where computer programmers and others involved in software development — including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers — collaborate on software projects.