Taking innovation to the next level
Winners of the Palihapitiya Venture Creation Fund to advance their technology post-graduation
Winners of the Palihapitiya Venture Creation Fund to advance their technology post-graduationBy Carol Truemner Faculty of Engineering
Impressing a venture capitalist with their business pitches earned two senior-year engineering teams $50,000 each in financial backing.
Capstone Design teams Hyperbeam and Scribenote are the winners of this year’s Palihapitiya Venture Creation Fund Award sponsored by Chamath Palihapitiya (BASc '99, Electrical Engineering), founder and CEO of Social Capital.
Besides the money, split equally among team members, the award also includes mentorship, training, and advice from successful entrepreneurs.
Hyperbeam is a shared browser that lets people in different locations surf the web and watch TV shows and movies together online.
“It’s technology that’s reliable, simple to use and works immediately,” says Hyperbeam member Philip Scott, a software engineering student.
The idea for Hyperbeam originated when Scott went to California for a co-op term and wanted to stay in touch with his friends from back home.
While in San Francisco, he discovered Rabb.it, an app that allowed him to share a virtual browser with his friends from home to surf the web together. While the app quickly became an important way for Scott to maintain his friendships, it shut down near the end of his co-op term due to various issues.
When he returned to school, Scott decided to work on an improved version of Rabb.it as his Capstone Design project. He teamed up with Amby Balaji and Declan Goncalves, who are both graduating from software engineering this spring, and Keer Liu, who is graduating with a Waterloo computer science degree.
The technology’s target audiences are young adults in long-distance relationships with romantic partners and close friends who wish to remain connected through what Goncalves describes as “a completely hassle-free watch party experience.”
Launched prior to the pandemic, Hyperbeam's popularity has grown over the past 14 months.
“While demand for our product was high right out of the gate, we certainly observed an increase in traffic as a result of increased social distancing restrictions,” says Goncalves.
Hyperbeam has signed up over 1.2 million users, with over 170,000 actively using the app each month. Its monthly revenue is approximately $23,000, derived mainly from premium monthly subscriptions.
The team plans to put its $50,000 in winnings toward marketing expenses, legal fees such as those for trademark registration and hiring the company’s first full-time employee.
The concept for Scribenote, automated record-keeping software, came to Ryan Gallagher after hearing about the time it took his sister to catch up on documentation after working long days at her veterinarian practice, an issue he says is common to medical professionals.
“Every clinician I know and the hundreds I’ve interviewed spend more than 25 per cent of their workday writing medical documentation,” says Gallagher, who is graduating with a BASc in nanotechnology engineering this spring. “This leads to burnout, increased wait times and increased costs of care.”
Gallagher shadowed his sister at her clinic and discovered that most of the information entered manually into an animal’s medical record after an appointment had already discussed.
He saw the duplication in information gathering as “a huge opportunity” to come up with a solution for simplifying the data collection process.
“If records can be completed by just listening to the conversation between veterinarian and animal owner and extracting the key clinical information from it, then technology that makes this process automatic would change the game,” he says.
Scribenote’s software transcribes each client conversation into text categorizing the appointment data. A backup is automatically made of the recordings for future reference.
Gallagher, along with the other Scribenote co-founders – Hashem Al Momani, Mohamed Ayman El-Naggar and Alina Pavel, also all graduating from nanotechnology engineering this spring – plan to use about half of the award money to support members working on their startup this summer. The other half will go towards paying a full-time medical scribe as well as sales, marketing and product development efforts.
Scribenote is focused on the veterinarian profession right now because Gallagher says there are fewer regulations involved when handling animal medical data than there are for human medical data.
“It’s a much smaller market and is completely privatized, meaning there are less bureaucracy and red tape in the early sales process, allowing us to get a foothold into clinical markets quickly,” he says.
By targeting veterinarians first, Scribenote members plan to build core technology that will eventually be available to other clinicians like physicians, nurses and other health services providers. And Gallagher is confident there is a large market for it.
“When we tell healthcare professionals about Scribenote, their reaction is almost always ‘Wait, really? When can I start using it?’” he says.
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