Six finalists to compete at Empower 2023 Pitch Competition for cash and in-kind prizes

Written by
Claire Grace Shin, Class of 2025
April 15, 2023

Princeton Entrepreneurship Council is pleased to announce the finalists for the Empower 2023 Pitch Competition. The startups selected to present at this year’s pitch competition encompass a broad range of industries and stages of development, are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and are commercializing or licensing intellectual property from a university (in parentheses below). 

The finalists are competing for a total of $135,000 in cash prizes, including a $100,000 grand prize, in addition to in-kind legal services. These startup founders are receiving mentoring and pitch coaching from experienced entrepreneurs and investors, leading up to the competition on April 27th. 

During the pitch competition, Ellington West, CEO of Sonavi Labs, will give an update on how Sonavi’s grand prize win at Empower 2021 positively impacted the startup and helped position it for their current Series A fundraising round. 

The six Empower 2023 finalists: 

AtomICs is revolutionizing the way we store and process digital data by using ubiquitous small molecules to offer denser, more sustainable, and more durable data storage. Co-Founder and CEO Dana Biechele-Speziale, a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at Brown, will represent AtomICs. (Brown University)

Hera Biotech is developing the world's first non-surgical, tissue based molecular test to definitively diagnose and stage endometriosis, which affects ~180M women world-wide, making it an estimated $9B market opportunity. CEO and Co-Founder Somer Baburek will represent Hera. (University of Texas Health Center - San Antonio)

Nanopath is an early-stage molecular diagnostics company working to develop an entirely new approach to nucleic acid detection that provides clinically actionable molecular information in <15 minutes. Co-Founder and CEO Amogha Tadimety will represent Nanopath. (Dartmouth University)

PolyGone Systems is a cleantech company that is developing modular, affordable solutions to remove microplastics from waterways. Co-Founder and COO Yidian Liu will represent PolyGone. (Princeton University)

Seia Bio, a spinout of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a protective coating which enables the previously-impossible manufacture of biofertilizers to improve crop yields using sustainable farming practices. Co-Founder Ariel Furst, Cook Career Development Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, will represent Seia Bio at the Pitch Competition. (MIT)

Sóliome is revolutionizing skin health with the first sunscreens inspired by our own human biochemistry. Evolution gave our eyes completely transparent UV filtering amino acids – Sóliome’s technology utilizes these in peptides to give our skin that same remarkable protection. Co-Founder Denise Koller, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art & Archeology at Princeton, will represent Sóliome. (Princeton University)

PEC is also pleased to welcome our pitch competition judges:

  • Natalie Guo, Investor at Thrive Capital
  • Mark Jung, independent board member and advisor at InMar, Millennium Trust, PocketRN, and Super League Gaming
  • Kammy Moalemzadeh, Founder and Managing Partner of Arcadia Investment Partners

Princeton University's Empower conference is a global event that strives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion for academic entrepreneurs, including those from underrepresented groups. The second conference in this series, Empower 2023, will celebrate women entrepreneurs throughout academia and all founders who are commercializing or licensing university-developed intellectual property. 

Register for Empower