Founder Stories

Teresa Cauvel ’16SEAS and Sona Shah ’16SEAS, Founders of Neopenda

3rd place winners of the 2015 Columbia Venture Competition Global Tech Challenge keep momentum rolling

Co-founders Teresa Cauvel ’16SEAS and Sona Shah ’16SEAS founded Neopenda to address a massive global health challenge: Too many critically ill newborns are dying from preventable causes in low-resource settings, often times because hospitals are severely understaffed and there is no equipment to help identify a newborn in distress.

Cauvel and Shah came up with the idea while a Masters Biodesign Course at Columbia, taught by Professor Katherine Reuther. Working through the design process – identifying the problem, interviewing stakeholders, generating concepts, and prototyping a solution – the duo developed a wearable vital signs monitor that would continuously measure four crucial vital signs (pulse rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, temperature), and help nurses better manage high volumes of patients with limited resources and be alerted when newborns need immediate attention.

Gathering Momentum with Over $500K

In April 2015, the promising Neopenda team won third place at the $10,000 prize at the Columbia Engineering-sponsored track of the $250K Columbia Venture Competition and used its winnings to travel to Uganda to validate the need for its product and to interview stakeholders

After time in the field, Cauvel and Shah moved to Washington, DC for five months to participate in the Relevant Health accelerator program and built out Neopenda’s business plan while finishing their Master’s degrees.

What followed was a big boon for funding: as Neopenda continued to develop, the team pulled in over $500K from competition winnings (placing first in the Cisco CSR’s Internet of Everything Innovation Challenge, Vodafone’s Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project, and Cisco CSR’s Internet of Everything Innovation Challenge) and Kickstarter funding.

This year, the accolades show no signs of slowing down: Neopenda was named a finalist in this year’s FastCompany’s World Changing Ideas Awards and won an IEEE SIGHT (Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology) grant for a technology feasibility study in Uganda. Cauvel and Shahwere also named to Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs list for 2017.

In the Field and On the Market

With its first hire – Paul Oloya, Uganda Country Coordinator – and a partnership with the Uganda Pediatrics Association, Neopenda is now looking forward to validation studies in the field in Uganda and other locations in Africa. The team is also currently participating in the PULSE@ Mass Challenge digital health program in Boston, which is designed to bring digital health innovators and the clinical community together to drive better and faster innovation.

What’s next? As Neopenda prepares to scale up and expand, the team continues to look for opportunities and introductions that will help them grow their social enterprise. Sign up for their newsletter and reach out with support through their site here.

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