Atlanta students have once again shown their entrepreneurial prowess on the global stage.
Insight Optics, an Atlanta-based and Georgia Tech-founded HealthTech platform assisting primary care providers with retinal screenings, took third in this month’s TiE University Global Pitch Competition. The virtual competition is one part of TiE’s growing ecosystem, which looks to provide college and university founders mentoring, networking, education, and funding opportunities.
526 teams competed at local TiE pitch events to earn a spot at the global competition.
Insight Optics received a combination of cash prizes and grant money to continue to grow its product.
Teams from TiE Toronto and TiE Dallas’ chapters took home first and second place in this year’s competition. Last year Aerodyme Technologies, also hailing from Georgia Tech, took home first prize.
One of the team’s mentors, Neeti Dewan, said the Insight Optics team was very open to coaching throughout the mentoring process. “When I’m working with students, I always view them as experts in their area who have a brilliant idea…and think how can we enhance [that idea] in a real business setting?”
Meet Insight Optics
The Insight Optics founding team consists of Dr. Aaron Enten and TJ LaGrow, both hailing from Georgia Tech and graduates of the Create-X program.
After earning both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins, Enten worked in the medical technology space before pursuing an MBA/Ph.D. at Georgia Tech.
While the initial idea for Insight Optics was born while Enten was in grad school, he said it took “three or four years of customer discovery to actually get the business model and tech stack that we have today.”
Insight Optics looks to fill an important gap in the medical landscape. The rise of diabetes and hypertension has increased the prevalence of dangerous comorbidities like hypertensive retinopathy (which can lead to blindness). “We already have the technology and treatments to prevent these diseases from progressing. So as long as you’re going to an ophthalmologist once per year.”
The problem, Enten told Hypepotamus, is access.
“It’s a behavioral problem, not really a technical one. And that’s the space that we operate in.”
As a mobile-enabled platform and app, primary care physicians (PCPs) have access to a handheld ophthalmoscope, which allows doctors to look at the back of the eye.
The 3D-printed tool allows doctors and nurse practitioners to “record video of the retina and the back of the eye and know in real-time that they’ve captured the right content and that is of diagnosable quality,” added Enten. “We do the heavy lifting with computer vision and machine learning so that those [healthcare professionals] who don’t necessarily need to have ophthalmology training can still provide a diagnostic.”
From there, Enten said, the platform functions as a telemedicine platform by connecting PCPs with a list of specialists.
Enten credits the TiE network for helping scale the startup and connecting the team with overseas business opportunities.
Insight Optics is currently raising a Seed Round to scale through recurring channel partnerships.
Those networking and mentoring opportunities are precisely the resources TiE chapters look to provide for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Paul Lopez, co-chair of TiE University and board member of TiE Atlanta’s chapter, told Hypepotamus that teams “come out of college with an idea. Now they’re coming out of this program with a business.”
For Eric Ensor, charter member and board member for TiE Atlanta, the virtual programming helped TiE connect more easily with students from across the state of Georgia.
This helped to highlight the innovative ideas being produced across Georgia’s university system. “In our finals in Atlanta, there were many teams that were ready to launch businesses — not just thinking about it, not just developing products, but we’re really ready to go.”
Teams in this year’s TiE Atlanta local pitch competition included GABA (Morehouse School of Medicine), KemNu (Georgia State University), Lionfisher (Emory University), AutoMat (University of Georgia), Queues (Georgia Tech), Nano Inhalation/Airmed (Valdosta State), and DirectEx (University of North Georgia).
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