Empower 2021 Pitch Competition finalists selected

Written by
Wright Señeres, Princeton Entrepreneurship Council
Sept. 2, 2021

The Empower 2021 Conference explores the path to entrepreneurial success and positive societal impact for academic-driven innovations by Black faculty, graduate students, postdocs and other founders in deep tech and social sciences. 

Six startups have been selected to compete for a grand prize of $100,000 in cash plus in-kind services at the Empower 2021 conference, organized by Princeton University and sponsored by Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Mintz, National Urban League and EisnerAmper. Commercializing and leveraging academic-driven innovations, these finalists are working on a range of technologies with high potential for positive societal impact: 

  • Elyte Energy is a clean energy technology program that provides clean power for those who are constantly on the go. Affiliated with Delaware State University. Founder: Jalaal Hayes, Ph.D. 
  • Grid Discovery automates the site discovery phase of microgrid development, enabling unparalleled scale and efficiency. Affiliated with Stevens Institute of Technology. Founders: Philip Odonkor, Ph.D., Matthew Cristaldi
  • Moving Analytics is a telehealth provider of virtual cardiac rehabilitation programs. Affiliated with the Stanford University School of Medicine. Founder: Ade Adesanya.
  • Rubitection built a skin health and care management tool that improves the detection, risk assessment and care management of dermatological and vascular conditions. Affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University. Founder: Sanna Gaspard, Ph.D.
  • Sayenza Biosciences is developing the industry’s first fully automated platform for the processing of liposuction fat, the largest source of adult stem cells in the body. Affiliated with the University of California. Founder: Derek Banyard, M.D. 
  • Sonavi Labs has received FDA clearance for the Feelix technology and is pursuing breakthrough designation for their diagnostic software, creating the world’s first digital pneumonia diagnostic. Affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. Founder: Ellington West. 
Empower 2021 pitch competition finalists: Elyte Energy, Grid Discovery, Moving Analytics, Rubitection, Sayenza Biosciences, Sonavi Labs

Additional prizes of $35,000 in cash plus in-kind services will also be awarded. These six finalists will receive mentoring and pitch coaching leading to the competition on Day 1 of Empower on September 23rd.  

To assist with broadening access to the venture capital community, these six startups (plus another nine that were semi-finalists in the pitch competition) will be matched with several venture capital firms for 15-minute one-on-one conversations during the conference.   

The annual Empower conference explores the path to entrepreneurial success and positive societal impact for academic-driven innovations by underrepresented faculty, graduate students, postdocs and other founders. With over 18 speakers confirmed and keynotes by Gaby Greene Sulzberger of Two Sigma Impact and Mike Froman, Chairman of Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth, Empower 2021 will set forth actions to address access and funding challenges for Black academic startup founders. The conference will close with a discussion between Dr. George T. French, Jr., President of Clark Atlanta University and Prof. Rod Priestley, Vice Dean for Innovation at Princeton University.

This national conference for academic entrepreneurship will also feature fireside chats and panel discussions with experts such as National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipient Joseph DeSimone, leading venture capital investors Jennifer Gill Roberts, Ita Ekpoudom, and many more. 

Admission to Empower 2021 is free. Join by registering at empower.princeton.edu and networking with fellow attendees on the conference platform.