Next-generation data storage start-up takes first-place Venture Prize

Seven student teams vied for $50,000 in prize money at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship’s Venture Prize pitch night, the fifth annual event but the first held in-person since 2019.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — For the first time in three years given the impact of COVID-19, Brown’s most advanced entrepreneurial ventures came together in front of a live audience on Thursday, March 17, to pitch their ideas to a panel of accomplished judges and vie for $50,000 in funding.

The big winner at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship’s fifth-annual Venture Prize pitch night?

A student/faculty venture called AtomICs — a next-generation data storage computing start-up that harnesses small molecule mixtures to store digital information and perform computations.

AtomICs took home the top prize of $25,000 at the Alumnae Hall event, attended by a spirited crowd of more than 250 community members.

Judges at the 2022 BVP pitch night
Judges and guests flew in from across the country for the event, which awarded $50,000 across three student ventures.  

“There are some serious problems with how we store and process our data,” said Ph.D. student Dana Biechele-Speziale during the teams presentation, noting a dwindling silicon supply. “What we need is nothing short of a paradigm shift in approach. That’s where AtomICs comes in. We have already shown that we can store digital data denser, more sustainably and for longer periods of time when compared to conventional and current DNA competitors… We are revolutionizing the way we store and process digital data by using small molecules.”

Biechele-Speziale pitched the team’s venture with fellow Ph.D. student Selahaddin Gumus; the graduate students partnered with Brenda Rubenstein, an associate professor of chemistry, and Jacob Rosenstein, an associate professor of engineering, to create AtomICs.

The Venture Prize supports student teams at Brown that have identified a significant opportunity, and whose ventures have the potential to create “impact at scale.” The prize funding provides resources to assist the growth of ventures, with winners selected by a panel of Brown alumni spanning a variety of sectors and entrepreneurial careers.

Dream!N, an online, user-generated content game platform for playing, exploring, creating and socializing, earned the event’s $15,000 second prize.

“We (daily users) want a much simpler tool and also a platform to share,” Class of 2023 computer science and economics concentrator Yifei Wang explained during the team’s presentation. “That is what we are bringing to the game industry.”

The third prize of $10,000 went to COmmunity ADherence — or COAD — a digital health platform that aims to improve medication adherence by using a smart pillbox and user-friendly mobile application to remind, record and notify users to take their medication.

“What’s the problem? Medicine only works if you take it,” said Class of 2022 public health concentrator Rose Engler during the group’s presentation. “Why are patients not adherent? Most simply forget.”

In a recap shared by the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship after the event, the center’s staff said that judges and guests flew in from across the country, from California to North Carolina to Martha’s Vineyard.

“As we reflect on the past two years, this was the community event we have been waiting and longing for,” they wrote. “Being back together in person, and the energy in the room last night, left us all inspired to continue launching solutions with impact.”

Other ventures pitched during the evening included aloud, the first exclusively audio-based social media platform;, a network that matches pre-screened candidates with top startups and companies in Southeast Asia; Pointz, a safety-focused mapping app for micro-mobility riders; and Cinemates (the evening’s Fan Favorite award winner), which saves viewers time spent looking for movies and shows, serving as a trusted community-based recommendation service.

The winners will also receive expert mentorship and introductions to leaders in the Brown entrepreneurial community.