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Mental Health Resource App Goes From Win to Win at 2022 Pitch Dingman Competition

Student Startup Aims to Reduce Clinician Stress, Burnout

By Pablo Suarez

Sanketh

Sanketh Andhavarapu ’23, one of the founders of Vitalize, gives an overview of his grand prize-winning startup Tuesday at the 2022 Pitch Dingman Competition. Below, the the top three teams line up with their checks.

Photo by HoCo Photo

While health care worker burnout intensifies as a public health crisis during the COVID pandemic, a potential tech-based antidote helped two Terps walk away with the $30,000 grand prize at the 2022 Pitch Dingman Competition on Tuesday—just five days after winning the University of Maryland’s 2022 Do Good Challenge with the same app.

Sanketh Andhavarapu ’23, a neuroeconomics/individual studies and biological sciences major, and Veeraj Shah ’21, a health policy and technology/individual studies and biological sciences major, were honored for their startup, Vitalize. The clinician-centric app and web-based dashboard is designed to help hospital leadership reduce employee burnout and promote mental and psychological well-being.

Launched in January 2020, the company participated in Terp Startup, a summer accelerator program for student entrepreneurs hosted by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. In addition to winning the $5,000 venture track category at the Do Good Institute’s 10th annual Challenge on April 21, it also took home the $1,000 audience choice prize during Tuesday’s event.

“Vitalize isn’t just a startup, it’s a mission,” said Andhavarapu. “We exist to restore the purpose and joy and improve the well-being of health care workers globally so that millions of patients get the best care possible.”

Hosted by the Dingman Center at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and now in its 12th year, the competition returned to an in-person format at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union for the first time since 2019. The final round saw six student teams from a pool of 60 applicants compete for a share of $80,000 in startup funding.

“Pitch Dingman Competition is our signature program because it attracts the most talented student entrepreneurs across campus,” said Holly DeArmond, managing director of the Dingman Center. “These are the student founders who are putting in the hard work and the skills building to make their idea a reality. The competition process and the funding will help them immensely.”

At the semifinals earlier this month, teams across three competition tracks pitched their business models and growth strategies to a panel of UMD alum and entrepreneurs to make it to the final showdown on Tuesday evening.

Four students hold three giant checks at Pitch Dingman Competition

Teams with scalable, tech or tech-enabled ventures competed in the David and Robyn Quattrone Venture Track. Vitalize, the winner, plans to allocate its winnings toward key product improvements like beefing up dashboard analytics, as well as for travel expenses to pilot sites and national health care conferences.

The Quattrone Venture Track’s second-place honors went to Chat Health, led by Aishwarya Tare ’22, an information science major focused on human-computer interaction. The team won $10,000 for its data analytics platform for university health centers.

Computer science major Bryan Houlton ’23, and Ryan Downing ’22, who’s majoring in finance and computer science, took home the $1,000 third-place prize for Quandry, a new platform for small-cap traders to research, develop and deploy automated trading strategies. The team also received $10,000 for the first-ever Tom Savransky Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.

The Main Street Track featured small businesses with revenue and initial customers but less emphasis on scale. Winners included:

  • First prize, $20,000: Omega 3, created by Edwin Djampa ’22, a nutrition and food science major, is a food brand emphasizing Omega-3 fatty acids and organic ingredients to sustain brain health.
  • Second prize, $7,500, and $1,000 audience choice winner: MatMate, a patent-pending protective device that stops the driver’s heel from wearing through their car’s floor mat, launched by James Dawson ’24, a business management major
  • Third prize, $1,000: North Star Creations, founded by Mat Parsons MBA ’22, assists with emotional and social development for children by providing educational materials and inclusivity-focused toys. North Star Creations also took a $2,500 second prize in last week’s Do Good Challenge.

The Fearless Ideas Track, which showcased yet-to-be-developed ventures, granted $5,000 and guaranteed admission to the Terp Startup summer accelerator program to ReGlass, a company founded by Bennett Greenspun ’24 that specializes in interchangeable lenses for glasses.

New to the competition this year, all Main Street Track and Quattrone Venture Track quarterfinalists and semifinalists were eligible to win $1,000 each for specialty categories. Those include:

  • Best Graduate: Gelectric Medical: Leah Borden Ph.D. ’22, Matthew Dowling, James Borden Ph.D. ’10
  • Best Smith Student Founder or Team: Pet Passport: Dorian Stephens MBA ’22, Alex Sonnie MBS ’22, Anthony Small MBA ’22, Ogugua Obii-Obioha MBA ’22, Shahriar Jahanbani MBA ’22, Musangu Tanguy Bukasa MBA ’22
  • Ladies First Founders: Crys & Co Cosmetics: Crystal Pinckney ’22
  • Social Impact: WISE Cities: Marie Brodsky ’24, Katherine-Aria Close
  • Sustainability: Repurpose Farm Plastic: Krisztina Christmon ’22, Benjamin Rickles Ph.D. ’23

This year’s competition was sponsored by David Quattrone MBA ’05, co-founder and chief technology officer of CVENT, and his wife, Robyn, along with Chris and Vidya Ballenger ’89, Tom Parsons ’93, MBA ’10 and Amazon Web Services. Quattrone, Parsons and Chris Ballenger, founder and CEO of APEX Strategies, also served on the judging panel alongside Ngozi Azubike '82, chief operating officer, OBAN Corporation; Sarah Frimpong, founder and CEO, Wellfound Foods; and Akash Magoon ’18, co-founder and chief technology officer, Nayya.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.