By Dawn Strickland
On May 6, 2020, Nicolas (Nic) Ventura and Remy Leutenegger were awarded most improved and $7,500 as the first place winners at the Student Startup Center’s 2020 PLASMA Demo Day. PLASMA is a 12-week business accelerator for UC Davis undergraduate students. The program provides early-stage companies with an extensive mentor network, educational lessons with industry leaders, seed capital and a rich entrepreneurial work environment. Nic and Remy are grateful to have won the competition. The prize money will allow them to continue to work on their creation, AccuDropper, “an easier method for everyone to dispense their own eye drops.”
Nic is in his third year at UC Davis, studying mechanical engineering and Remy is a third year UC Davis biomedical engineering major, specializing in medical devices. Both are from California: Nic from the Bay Area and Remy from nearby Dixon. The two met as roommates their first year of college and have been working together ever since.
During their second year, Nic and Remy participated in the UC Davis BioMedical Make-a-Thon, a one weekend competition during which teams compete to design models to solve an engineering problem in the medical field. That year’s challenge came from the UC Davis Medical Center. A doctor there had patients who were struggling to dispense their eye drops. Nic and Remy’s AccuDropper device was created that weekend. Nic and Remy’s design incorporates electronics to automate the eye drop dispensing process, fulfilling a need overlooked by eye drop dispensers currently being sold.
The AccuDropper project was at a standstill until Nic and Remy heard about the Student Startup Center’s PLASMA program. “PLASMA was good because we had the engineering skills already, but we didn’t have any of the connections or the business tactics to go about starting a startup,” explained Nic.
Nic and Remy started the PLASMA program with just an idea. Three months later, the duo has conducted doctor and patient interviews to gain insight into the optimal design for their AccuDropper device. They also have a prototype device and full renderings of what they want the device to look like and how they want it to function.
Next steps for Nic and Remy include further developments in their product, incorporating new features such as a drop sensor for increased automation to improve usability and internet of things (IoT) technology to track patient compliance.
When asked if they impressed themselves with their work, Remy said, “We’re doing something that we have learned through school and we’re doing something that we’re passionate about. It feels like we’re just doing what we’re meant to do and that is using our skills to help people and make a change in something that we see as a problem.”
Nic and Remy can use our support. They ask that we visit their website, review their content and direct ourselves, or others we know who can benefit from their device, to the online survey on their website.
The Student Startup Center provides UC Davis students with an opportunity to experience the entrepreneurial process while developing, refining and prototyping their ideas for technology startups. The Center offers academic courses, entrepreneurial thinking practice, conversations with experienced entrepreneurs and investors, technical and soft skill workshops and an accelerator for early-stage student startups. The Center’s mission is to identify and influence highly creative students from all areas of study at UC Davis, facilitate the creation of student teams, and then provide mentor support from fellow students, staff, faculty, alumni and visiting entrepreneurs.