Three months after having a baby, Anne Moseley’s niece experienced an even more excruciating medical event: kidney stones.
“She said the pain was worse than giving birth,” Moseley recounted for a panel of judges and a roomful of women at the third Empowering Women in Technology Startups investor pitch competition.
Moseley told her niece’s story to demonstrate the need for new technology to support an at-home testing kit to detect early-stage kidney stones. The approach worked. Her team, EZ MediTest, won first place in the June 2014 competition. The women took home new iPads and entrepreneurial skills that will empower them for the rest of their lives.
“eWiTS is about helping women to understand they can create their own opportunities,” said program founder Jane Muir, associate director of the University of Florida Office of Technology Licensing. “Nurturing a new group of entrepreneurs ultimately helps UF commercialize new technologies.”
The program is hosted by the UF Office of Technology Licensing, UF TechConnect® and the Florida Innovation Hub. Launched in spring 2012, eWiTS provides women of diverse professional and academic backgrounds with mentoring, encouragement and entrepreneurial training in hopes of increasing the number of women with leadership roles in STEM companies. Over a period of ten weeks, 50 women on seven teams — mentored by tech-savvy female executives — developed business plans and investor presentations for UF technologies.
EZ MediTest took home first place, while second place went to Clear Passages, which pitched a test that detects lung disease. Third went to MeDeNova, which pitched a technology for protecting healthy tissue during cervical cancer treatments. Other teams presented ideas for skin cancer preventatives, landfill treatments and CPR devices.
Although teams do not form real companies, the program provides more experience than a traditional classroom exercise.
“This felt more real,” said participant Maria Sanclemente. “It was close to the real world.”
Participants had degrees ranging from bachelor’s to doctorates and came from diverse professional backgrounds including communications, finance, engineering, academia and everything in between. In eWiTS, they find the confidence to consider start-ups and STEM fields in their future career plans.
Learning what steps a start-up must take in order to launch was an important part of eWiTS, participant Camila Ribeiro said.
”You have an idea. Then what happens?” she said. “This gives you a path to follow.”
For more information, visit www.ewits.org.