Brown University School of Engineering

Sophomore Engineers Take Second at Inaugural Brown Venture Prize Pitch Night

March 20, 2018
Brown Venture Prize

Founders of Cloud Agronomics (l-r) Alex Zhuk '20, Jack Roswell '20, and Julian Vallyeason '20 have developed a drone to aid farmers with visuals of their fields.

Credit: Brown University

Brown’s Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship held its first Brown Venture Prize pitch night on Thursday, March 15, giving away $50k in prize money to three startup ventures. The Brown Venture Prize is designed to empower the most advanced entrepreneurial ventures by Brown students. It supports teams who have identified a significant opportunity, and whose ventures have the potential to create “impact at scale”.

Penta took first prize and $25,000 for their pitch to bring high-quality, low-cost prosthetic care to people with disabilities in Vietnam by repurposing used equipment from the United States. Penta was founded by Trang Duong ’18 (Applied Math and Development Studies) and Victor Wang (Yale ’18, History and Classics).  

Placing second in the competition, and $15,000, was Cloud Agronomics, a team composed of founding members Jack Roswell ’20 (mechanical engineering), Alex Zhuk ’20 (mechanical engineering), and Julian Vallyeason ’20 (chemical engineering). Cloud Agronomics also took first place at the Brown Hult Prize Pitch Competition in December. The group of sophomore Brown engineers has developed a solar powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone that uses remote sensors to provide farmers better data about their crops.

Taking third place was TextUp ($10,000). TextUp empowers social workers with secure messaging and collaboration, saving time and improving professional quality of life. TextUp enables case managers to efficiently foster strong relationships with clients built on consistent communication and reliable follow-up. Its founders include Michelle Petersen ’18 (Public Policy and Public Health), Eric Bai ’15.5, MD ’22 (computer biology) and Hannah Oh (RISD ’15 Industrial Design).

The Brown Venture Prize is agnostic with respect to what sectors or industries ventures are working in, or even whether they are commercial, social, or have blended approaches. The essential thing is that teams have identified an opportunity or challenge and are thinking big about how to solve it. It is intended to help them accelerate and scale those solutions. Winners receive prize money, critical mentorship, and access to leaders in the Brown entrepreneurial community and beyond. Brown Venture Prize pitch night sold out with 250 people in attendance, and was simulcast from Friedman Auditorium on the Brown campus.