The young CEO of a new healthcare company, two undergraduate students building tech-driven start-ups, a professor of entrepreneurship and NJIT VentureLink’s director of commercialization were all named “2019 STEM Leaders: Innovators to Watch” this week by the New Jersey Tech Council.
The five-member contingent of NJIT entrepreneurs received their awards at a rooftop ceremony at Bell Works in Holmdel, site of the former Bell Labs, following the Tech Council’s annual Future Forum, a gathering that convenes researchers, entrepreneurs, company executives and innovators, investors, developers and students to focus on transformative advances in healthcare, as well as novel technologies more broadly.
“There was a really broad range of innovators from across the state, running the gamut from high school students to seasoned entrepreneurs. It’s a really fun event because of that,” said one of the award recipients, John Vito d’Antonio-Bertagnolli '16 H MS '17, the CEO of OculoMotor Technologies, a company developed around a vision therapy platform that employs virtual reality games to correct an eye motor disorder called convergence insufficiency.
The device, which also has potential as a biomarker for concussion, is being tested in children’s hospitals across the country and earlier this year won “most innovative breakthrough,” at the 2018 Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE EU), the leading industry conference for augmented reality technology. D’Antonio-Bertagnolli is pictured below hobnobbing with James Barrood, president and CEO of the Tech Council, a fairy and the Night King from Game of Thrones, who apparently rematerialized for the ceremony following his shattering demise last week.
An NJIT sophomore, Milad Mirghahari, was tapped for the award for developing an online job finding and recruitment platform that intelligently studies skills, experience and other data to match candidates and recruiters. Mirghahari developed this venture, both the technological and business aspects, as part of the new “Foundation of Technology Entrepreneurship” course, offered by the Ying Wu College of Computing (YWCC) at NJIT.
Another NJIT undergraduate awarded at the event, senior Parth Mehta, received an NSF I-Corps grant for his work on eCubed, a software application that will assist NJIT in connecting with the Newark business community. Mehta and another student, Joel Gordy, mapped the entrepreneurial ecosystem at NJIT to connect startups with like-minded business leaders.
Mehta is spending part of this week at The Indus Entrepreneur (TIE) Global Conference at Silicon Valley after being chosen to represent the New Jersey chapter of the organization, which provides mentoring, networking, education, funding and incubation to entrepreneurs. He will take part in a pitch competition and attend a two-day “Founders Bootcamp” conducted by Silicon Valley veterans.
With him at the conference is another “Innovator to Watch”: Suresh Kumar, a professor of practice at YWCC, the director of the College’s innovation and entrepreneurship programs and a seasoned entrepreneur with a number of successful startups under his belt.
Both Mirghahari and Mehta (pictured with Kumar below) took his experiential learning course, which focuses on developing ideas on limited budgets and includes a semester-long, workshop-type experience leading students through all the steps of the venture creation process. It is taught by entrepreneurs from the region, and students are expected to develop their own venture.
William Lutz, VentureLink’s new director of commercialization, who works closely with students to develop their ideas in an entrepreneurial setting on the edge of the campus, was also awarded for his role in the university’s innovation ecosystem.
“I like to see myself as a coach,” he notes, adding that he kept an eye on the budding entrepreneurs at the event to “make sure they were networking.”