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Student Demo Day features new student startup companies

  • December 12, 2018

Student entrepreneurs pitch their business ventures to the Birmingham business community following a 10-week training program.

Written by: Briana Bryant

Media Contact: Alicia Rohan

demo day joomlaStudent entrepreneurs pitch their business ventures to the Birmingham business community following a 10-week training program.Feeding the pipeline of Birmingham startups is a priority at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is celebrating the latest cohort of student entrepreneurs and building on the recent success of the UAB Student Accelerator program with its second student startup Demo Day. On Nov. 29, 11 student teams pitched their business startup and nonprofit ideas to the Birmingham business community.

“We are laser-focused on innovation and entrepreneurship at UAB,” said Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., executive director of the HIIE. “Through programs like the Student Accelerator, we’re fostering a culture of innovation on campus and in turn hoping to support the local startup community with the next generation of companies.”

The free, non-credit-bearing entrepreneurial training program guides students through customer discovery, business model canvas, sales and marketing, legal, and other elements of starting a company. During the 10-week program, students form teams, are paired with a local mentor in a relevant field and are invited to pitch their startup ideas at Demo Day.

Jared Sluss, a senior in the School of Public Health and Honors College, pitched Link and Loan, a nonprofit venture working to provide housing opportunities to homeless individuals by connecting them with landlords who have vacant rental properties. Link and Loan identifies housing candidates with stable government checks from Social Security, disability and veterans’ pensions and lends the money needed for a security deposit.

“The Commercialization Accelerator prepared me to pursue opening my startup, Link and Loan,” Sluss said. “I feel equipped with practical skills and intend to pursue the idea as my full-time job next year.”

Sluss recently competed in the third annual Blazer Innovation Challenge and won $5,000 to put toward the venture. He plans to use the money to register Link and Loan as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and begin a housing pilot in January.

Jared SlussJared Sluss present at the Student Accelerator Demo DayOther projects pitched at Demo Day include:

  • U-Fix Garage – provides rental vehicle bays equipped with tools needed to perform most repairs, while fostering a hands-on car enthusiast community. Led by Andy Curry, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student.
  • M.U.T. Guitars – manufactures lightweight, modular, affordable and quality guitars using interchangeable parts. Led by Brandon DeBalsi, a recent graduate in psychology, and Tarek Midani, a design and commercialization graduate student.
  • The Breakdown – makes the latest science discoveries accessible to all readers through an online science magazine. Led by Bre Minniefield, a biomedical science Ph.D. student, Alyncia Robinson, a cancer biology Ph.D. student, and Randyl Cochran, a health services administration Ph.D. student.
  • Red Mountain Excursions – leads outdoor expeditions and teambuilding trips for students, community and corporate adventurers. Led by computer science undergraduate student Gentry Patterson.
  • DEARlicious Treats – offers healthy tea and treats with a low glycemic index, using palm sugar and other real ingredients. Led by business management undergraduate student Keyani McNeil.
  • N-CodeWell – offers a hardware solution for persons suffering from tennis elbow that helps correct movement and track meaningful data. Led by Mark King, a material science and engineering Ph.D. student, and Jose Medina, a computer engineering Ph.D. student.
  • Mille Macarons – provides fresh, authentic French macarons. Led by pathology Ph.D. student Dianna Xing.
  • Adulting App – an interactive, game-based application aimed at teaching young adults how to better “adult” in the areas of health care management and understanding health insurance. Led by Sarah Rutland, a medical sociology Ph.D. student, Uzma Nur, a computer science undergraduate student, and Kiana Watson, a graphic design undergraduate student.
  • Refresh – converts surplus foods from local community-supported agriculture subscriptions, farmers’ markets and grocery stores into ready-to-cook meal delivery kits. Led by Victoria McDonald, a health behavior graduate student, Sivasubramaniam Ambikapathi, a biotechnology graduate student, Ashley Fowler, a psychology undergraduate student, and Josh Lim, a finance undergraduate student.
  • Wynd – offers a hardware-based quantitative solution to improve treatment outcomes for chronic respiratory diseases. Led by biomedical engineering undergraduate students Aakansha Gosain, Paige Severino and Zena Banker.

“Four student startup companies launched last semester as a result of the program, and this cohort looks very promising,” said Lydia Dick, assistant director of the UAB Commercialization Accelerator. “Along with the curriculum, our mentor network has been instrumental in helping student ventures gain the traction they need to grow in Birmingham.”

The Accelerator program incorporates mentors, guest speakers and consulting from partners including the Birmingham Business Alliance, Innovation Depot, Alabama Capital Network, TechBirmingham, Maynard Cooper and Gale, Shipt, and others.

“We’ve seen immense support for the Student Accelerator program from the local business community,” Nugent added. “I think that demonstrates an alignment among the Birmingham innovation ecosystem that will help us drive economic development.”

For more information about the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, visit or contact Briana Bryant, marketing manager, at 205-934-2838 or

The Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship facilitates rapid development of new ideas, products and technologies and prepares faculty, students and researchers to become entrepreneurs in an increasingly technology-driven ecosystem.

The Student Accelerator program is open to all students at UAB, regardless of year or area of study. The program includes entrepreneurship training, a local mentor network and guest speakers. The interest form for the spring 2019 cohort is available here.