Balakrishnan – 2nd place @ TM NVC

UCSB's 23rd Annual New Venture Competition (NVC) Finals team Rapsyn receives 2nd place – members include PhD students Shara Balakrishnan, ECE; Angela Morales, Dynamical Neuroscience; and Mengli Li, MCDB

photo of the rapsyn team presenting at NVC

Excerpt from The UCSB Current article "Metabowlite for the Win"

Pitching its optical technology for early detection of urinary tract infections (UTIs) to help save lives, improve health and reduce costs, Metabowlite won the NVC Finals, taking home the $10,000 First Place Award. The event represents the culmination of the Technology Management (TM) Department’s rigorous eight-month technology business plan competition that is open to UCSB students from all disciplines.

Along with second place overall, the RapSyn team, with Shara Balakrishnan as the project presenter, also shared the Impact Award with the Refillr team to earn a total of $10,000. RapSyn created a rapid biomanufacturing platform that enables protein-production facilities to significantly improve their manufacturing yields, reduce production costs and delay costly infrastructure expansion. RapSyn leverages bacteriophages to innovate new bio-manufacturing pipelines and enable higher productivity.

Mentored by individuals who have lived and thrived in the fast-paced world of tech entrepreneurship, students in the NVC program have the opportunity to hone their entrepreneurial skills, refine their business plans and practice pitching their stories and ideas. Of the dozens of teams that started the program in October 2021, twelve were selected to participate in the competitive NVC Fair, where Refillr and Metabowlite shared the Best of Fair Award and received $1,000 apiece. Those two teams and three others were then selected to compete in the final.

“I’m always impressed with how the teams pull their final pitches together in the last couple weeks of the program. We provide them with coaching resources, but at the end of the day it comes down to their ability to tell the story of their business, and I thought all of the teams did that very well,” said TM entrepreneurship director Dave Adornetto. 

After the pandemic forced the event to go virtual the previous two years, the university’s premier start-up competition returned to an in-person format. Each team pitched their products and business plans and answered questions from a judging panel of tech entrepreneurship experts and investors. This year’s judges included Sherman Chu, the founder and managing partner at Grayhawk Capital; Karen Roter Davis, the former director of early-stage projects at Google X and a partner at Entrada Ventures; angel investor Bei-Jing Guo, a graduate of UCSB’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, who spent twenty years at Microsoft and Amazon Web Service; and Jason Spievak, the co-founder and general partner of Entrada Ventures.

The UCSB Current "Metabowlite for the Win" (full article) (Video Replay - RapSyn starts at 1:49:00)