Harvey Mudd Entrepreneurs Win at 2023 SageTankMay 19, 2023
Harvey Mudd College entrepreneurs won three of the four top spots in the recent SageTank pitch competition run by Pomona Ventures, an organization of students from The Claremont Colleges–Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, Pitzer and Harvey Mudd.
At the SageTank event held in April, teams from around The Claremont Colleges shared startup pitches with a panel of experienced judges and a live audience. Winners received funding to invest in their company, and all competitors received publicity, networking opportunities and a jumpstart from the accelerator program.
All top teams, including the third-place finisher from Pomona College, had participated in the Entrepreneurship class taught by Kash Gokli, Oliver C. Field Professor of Manufacturing Practice and Engineering Economics and director of entrepreneurship initiatives. The popular course, open to all Claremont Colleges students, is part of HMC’s effort to strengthen and expand its curricular and co-curricular activities to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs. The class is aimed at those who would like to: launch a startup upon graduation or later; join established companies and apply their entrepreneurial skills and spirit; or be social entrepreneurs. Ayman Abdelletiff ’23 co-creator of Athena Network, said, “It was great to be in an environment that really nurtured our respect and passion for entrepreneurship.”
The winning startups and team members were:
1st place: Axolotl Audio, Devon Overbey ‘24, Pierce Gruber ’25, Xander Fries ‘24
2nd place: Brakesafe, Mau Brave Guzman ’25, Dominick Quaye ’25, Ket Hollingsworth ‘25
3rd place: David De Souza (Pomona College)
4th place: Athena Network, Ayman Abdelletiff ‘24
Devon Overbey, Pierce Gruber and Xander Fries will use their $5,000 prize to develop a prototype this summer and prepare for their first sales. The team began as a music startup last semester in the entrepreneurship class. During spring, they pivoted to traffic management. Their product uses audio from a microphone to detect the speed of passing cars and transmits that data to the cloud. Fries says, “Our device is 10 times cheaper than existing speed-monitoring devices, enabling HOAs and cities to continuously collect speed data on dangerous roads to make streets safer for everyone.”
He adds, “I’m extremely thankful for everyone who’s helped us get to this point and excited to see what’s ahead in the next few months.”
The founders note that automatic emergency braking, the largest improvement to car safety since the airbag, is not present in the majority of operating cars, let alone those made before 2018. The feature is more effective than forward-collision warning alarms at reducing car collisions, which result in 1.35 million deaths each year. Their product, Brakesafe, is an installable automatic braking system for motor vehicles which utilizes an open-source algorithm capable of detecting imminent collisions, pedestrians and red lights.
Athena Network is a mobile-based application that supplies students with valuable resources to get the most out of their college career. The design focuses on three major aspects of the college experience: college courses, community engagement and creating a new way for students to network.