Startup Weekend winners develop idea to help dementia patients

Just one weekend is all the time participants of Startup Weekend needed to change the healthcare landscape for years to come.

Startup Weekend is an annual event that took place from April 12-14. Within 54 hours, participants had worked on ideas focused on combining healthcare professionals, business, engineering, IT, community, students, and healthcare customer perspectives to contribute to the community and regional healthcare innovation.  

Vanderburgh County ranks 78 out of 92 counties for health outcomes in Indiana.

They then had to push those ideas through a unique, facilitated process and flush out ideas.

Instructor of Entrepreneurship Bryan Bourdeau describes Startup Weekend as “boot camp meets shark tank.”

“We have a large percentage of USI students that participate in the event,” Bourdeau said. “So, I find, and they have said in their evaluations of the event, that it is really priceless entrepreneurial education. Whether you truly want to be an entrepreneur, or you’re interested in creativity or innovation with the entrepreneur mindset, it really appears to be a broad range of students, faculty, and staff at any university.”

They continued to push ideas to either failure or a viable concept. Participants went through a 60-second pitch on a Friday evening then voted for the top ten, that then formed into teams and prepared for a presentation Sunday night.

Startup Weekend has been at USI for 8 years. Statistically, southwest Indiana has been categorized as innovatively poor and entrepreneurially weak by the Small Business Administration. The purpose of Startup Weekend is to come together as a community and come up with different beneficial ideas in order to change these classifications.

This year, the winning team consisted of five individuals, Michael Polley, a Henderson chief firefighter who originally thought of the idea, Sydney Schmitt, Michael Austin, Suri Nuthalapati and Jacob Delk.

On the last day of Startup Weekend, there were three winning teams for the event. The two top prize winners will receive $3,000 in idea development funding.  

The pitch was called S.T.E.I, Safe Tracking of Eloped Individuals. Their pitch was the development of a device that can be used to track dementia patients. 60% of Alzheimer’s patients will wander off, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.  

“(Michael Polley) gave this really heartfelt story about when he was called in the middle of the night,” senior health administration major Jacob Delk said. “An elderly patient with dementia wandered off and his team found her in a body of water. He said if he had something like this, it never would have happened.”

Delk said the team didn’t full on make the product. He said that it will either be a watch, pendant or a patch that can be placed on the dementia patient.

Delk said the team only worked on the project for a weekend, starting Friday night and then giving their presentation Sunday night.

“We won $3,000 and a lot of entrepreneurs engaging with Startup Weekend offered their services for free.”

The services that were offered for free included consultation, website design, and a workspace.

“I was actually very, very confident in our idea,” Delk said. “This was something pretty personal to our team because the firefighter, two of the others have family members with dementia that have wandered off.”

He said the team hopes to have the product ready by next year.

“We have a developer, some design people on our team, then the one who came up with it himself, and two of us are experts in healthcare,” he said. “We’re working together to establish this company.”