By: Grace Zhang | June 7, 2020

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This year’s Diamond Challenge Summit was certainly one for the books. Amidst the COVID pandemic, we were so proud to see so many innovative and inspiring ventures from teams all over the world. Our judges were certainly impressed by the pool of talent, and this year’s winners truly stood out, showcasing their ingenuity and creativity.

The Diamond Challenge is split up into two tracks: the Business Innovation Track and the Social Innovation Track. Competitors who choose the Business Innovation Track are judged on an equal weighting of feasibility and growth potential as well as taking “wow factor” into consideration. Read on to find out more about our 2020 Business Innovation Track winners!

First Place Winner: Astrofilter

Team Members: Jennifer Ye, Rindha Sudhini, Shravya Sompalli, Sriya Mantena

Venture Description: Astrofilter is a self-cleaning filter that will revolutionize the space industry, allowing for spacecraft ventilation systems to work at greater efficacy. Astrofilter functions by collecting debris in spacecrafts’ ventilation systems to prevent debris from blocking airflow as well as being redistributed back into the cabin.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?

“One event in particular served as the inspiration behind our project: A NASA downlink at NCSSM with astronaut Christina Koch, an alumnus of our school. Christina expressed her concerns with long-term space travel and described her experiences in a way that scientific literature never could. She recounted many memories of missing her family and interestingly enough reported the time consumption that came with weekly cleanings aboard the ISS. Our team was inspired by the possibility of creating an easy-to-use cleaning system so that the astronauts could spend more time overcoming significant obstacles in space exploration instead of cleaning inaccessible systems.” – Jennifer Ye

What was your team’s greatest challenge and how did you all overcome it?

“From the initial brainstorming to prototyping, the most valuable lesson we’ve learned was that our product is nothing without the people. Confident in our technology and eager to spread our innovation around the world, we packed our pitches with technical jargon. As we created our investor pitches, however, we realized that if we could not make a personal, meaningful connection to the audience, all our hard work would amount to nothing. With this in mind, we edited our pitch deck countless times to refine our content into information that left a lasting impact on consumers, investors and even just curious people. We needed to tell a story to capture the nature of our product’s effect on everyone: from astronauts to average Americans.” – Jennifer Ye

What was your Diamond Challenge experience like?

“While developing Astrofilter, we encountered a number of obstacles. We were all dipping our feet into a different realm. From having to learn how to use new software to comprehending the fluid dynamics of a ventilation system in a zero-gravity environment, we had to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and come together to re-strategize. We realized that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but it was up to us to put them together and create Astrofilter.” – Jennifer Ye

How did your Diamond Challenge experience impact your trajectory/future plans? Did the Summit change your plans or goals?
“The Summit and the entire Diamond Challenge experience absolutely changed my future goals. There was always a part of me interested in pursuing business and management but these minuscule feelings have now become heightened and will definitely change what I pursue in college.” – Jennifer Ye
What advice would you give to someone who is preparing for the Summit?

“Have the most fun you can. Look to the days where you spend fourteen hours in a room together as an adventure. Take coffee breaks and quick naps but value the work you do. Each idea IS meaningful, and never be afraid to write something down on paper.” – Jennifer Ye

 

Second Place Winner: Fision Lens

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Team Members: Emily Shao, Eva Tuecke, Krisha Patel

Venture Description: Fision Lens is a thin, film-like plastic that is applied directly on top of the original glasses lens in order to change the prescription. Traditionally, updating a glasses prescription can cost consumers hundreds of dollars, but Fision uses an additive process to update the prescription for a fraction of the cost.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?

“All three members of our team wear glasses and contact lenses, so we know how expensive updating glasses prescriptions can be. Providing a more affordable way for people to update their prescriptions provided the inspiration for our venture.” – Eva Tuecke

What was your Diamond Challenge experience like?

“My team and I thoroughly enjoyed our Diamond Challenge experience, as it allowed us to connect with like-minded student entrepreneurs and truly helped us build a strong network. Granted, having a virtual experience was very different from what past years’ Diamond Challenge looked like, but having access to so many fun networking sessions and informational panels throughout the weeks before the actual awards ceremony really helped me learn about how iterative the startup process is and how many different approaches there are to leading and launching a business. My biggest takeaway from the experience was definitely the stories behind each startup and how motivated and inspiring all the other entrepreneurs were.” – Krisha Patel

What was it like meeting new people from different backgrounds and various countries?

“This was definitely one of my favorite parts of the Diamond Challenge because I was able to learn about so many different people, ideas, and startups. I really liked how people from all different backgrounds could come together and share their ideas. It also helped me learn about different places around the world as well, such as the water crisis in developing countries or how new applications can connect people to new solutions.” – Emily Shao

What was your team’s greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

“Our team’s greatest challenge has been in prototyping, and this is definitely an ongoing challenge for us. Prototyping our product requires machinery that we didn’t have access to until recently, and that made it very difficult to test our idea and develop an MVP. While we’re still in the process of prototyping, we recently got access to more advanced machinery, which we think will make it possible for us to make significant advancements in the prototyping process.” – Eva Tuecke

What does your future look like? What are your future goals and plans for your team and your venture?

“Throughout this summer, we hope to launch our prototype and start organizing our business for the market. In the future, we hope to launch Fision Lens into the glasses industry as a more accessible, cost-effective and overall more beneficial alternative for prescription updates.” – Emily Shao

What advice would you give to someone who is preparing for the Summit?

“I would suggest setting smaller and more focused incremental goals when preparing for the Summit. Many of us have wonderful ideas that we’re very excited to pursue, but oftentimes, we rush into envisioning what we want our full blown company to look like without actually taking the time we should to really understand our plans and business model. Setting more realistic intermediate goals is really helpful in making sure your team feels prepared for the Summit and different questions judges may ask.” Krisha Patel

 

Third Place Winner: Ditch Dat!

Team Members: Summer Royal, Thomas Noochan

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Venture Description: Ditch Dat! is a novel solution for head lice that is easy to use, effective, safe and very affordable. The success of the product inspired a continued expansion of the product line to include a virucide line (spray, gel, foam hand sanitizer), a mouse trap and spider spray.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?

“One of us was in a summer drama program where the students stayed in the same housing, sharing pillows and blankets, costumes and hair tools. Within a couple of weeks, all the students had head lice, except one person. We struggled to eradicate the lice, especially since lice has become resistant to over-the-counter medication and we could not afford prescription medication. When we found out that there was no solution that was effective, safe and affordable, we wanted to find a novel way to combat head lice. We looked to the one person who did not get lice to see what was different about her hair care routine. This quest lead us on a journey to identify the exact ingredients in the products she used, along with the precise formulation to come up with a simple and economical solution.” – Summer Royal

What was your Diamond Challenge experience like?

“When a classmate of ours brought the Diamond Challenge to our attention, we had never entered an entrepreneurial or pitching competition before. The entire process was a learning curve – a STEEP learning curve! – as we had never prepared a budget, or financial statements before. The competition forced us to become familiar with the basics of finances overnight. This part was an eye-opener for us, as we had to reckon with the realization that our “great idea” was just that: an idea on paper. However, for it to become a financially profitable venture, we had to figure out the challenges of sourcing our ingredients and packaging supplies at the best prices, while raising capital to be able to purchase bulk supplies. This competition forced us to face the financial challenges of [creating] an enterprise, something we would not have arrived to without entering the Diamond Challenge.” – Summer Royal

What was it like meeting new people from different backgrounds and various countries?
“We really appreciated receiving an email from Sarah Lee, who competed in the Diamond Challenge the previous year. We shared the same challenges, as we are both well outside of Eastern Time Zone. Since we singled out Sarah’s pitch video from the year before as one of the participants who most impressed us, it was a real treat to hear from her. Similarly, we also loved our Zoom session with Prafull Sharma, who placed first last year. His perspective on balancing college with continuing his enterprise was a sobering reminder that we need to focus on our education first and foremost, that we could not – and should not – “ditch” our higher education. Prafull was also very helpful in reminding us what was most important to include in our pitch video. Clearly, his advice paid off, and we are very thankful for his relatable, personable approach.” – Summer Royal
What does your future look like? What are your future goals and plans for yourself and your venture?
We are going to attempt the impossible: focusing on getting into the college of our choice, while also fostering our enterprise. We know that it is a full-time job to build a company, but we feel that success is within our reach. It would be heartbreaking to pause our efforts, just so that we can focus on our higher education. This is our “baby”. We nurtured it from … if not a seeds, but from tiny insects, one louse at a time. We must find the time and strength to plow on and scale our production up to meet retail demand. We can only hope that we can pull off the impossible by burning the candle on both ends, attempting the absurd. Then again, as Albert Einstein said it: “Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.” – Summer Royal
What advice would you give to someone who is preparing for the Summit?
Have no fear. Be bold. Take risks, engage, reach out and allow others to connect their experience with yours. Our world is increasingly connected. Our resources are more shared than ever. Take advantage of this unique opportunity. Ichi-go ichi-e!
We are so proud of all our finalists and wish them the success in all their future endeavors. Good luck!

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No matter where our Diamond Challenge alumni go, we are constantly amazed by how they continue to make an impact on the world for the better.

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About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

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