Kiersten Jones Schwendeman says Delaware needs a treatment facility for people with eating disorders. With the help of a move-fast entrepreneurial zeal, the Aster Center is a freshly-launched first step in the process.
The Aster Center project took home the top prize at Global Startup Battle: Delaware, the second-annual startup competition where attendees pitch and launch products in 54 hours. Similar events were held around the world. This one was split between Start It Up Delaware and 1313 Innovation in Wilmington.
Schwendeman helped form a team at the event, including designer Pauline Rubin (whom we featured here), John Himics of First Ascent Design, Tristan Campos, a student a the Delaware College of Art and Design, and University of Delaware students Davis Pfund and Matthew Chen.
Their winning concept is a platform which collects resources and encouragement for individuals with eating disorders.
Currently, those who need outpatient care in Delaware are required to travel to Philadelphia or Baltimore — this means days, weeks and months of hotel and travel expenses, said Mona Parikh, organizer of the event and manager of Start It Up Delaware.
To test interest, and relying on an existing network of stakeholders, on Sunday the team launched a survey asking Delawareans about the need for such a facility and what other resources might help. More than 100 people responded on Sunday, and by Tuesday, 178 people had taken the survey.
Treatment facilities have a revenue model, but they’re surely not the norm at product launch events. Instead, the winner of the Delaware Global Startup Battle event is a nod to testing a market and developing a plan to build a lasting organization.
“You take the tech and combine that with the goal of someday building a physical center. We want this online resource to give us validation,” Parkih said. “They’re using technology to bridge that treatment gap.”
In total, five groups pitched their ideas at the event. Here are the other four:
- Evolve365 (a runner up) — Laura Karman-Parquet’s idea spawned from what happens after a person works out with a personal trainer. During her pitch, she talked about a way for trainers and clients to communicate (via a platform) outside of the gym. The platform would also connect to fitness wearables, providing data and anyalytics to the trainer.
- Delaware Green Mattress Disassembling & Recycling (a runner up) — Tanya Whye, who recently won the Great Dames pitch competition, presented her idea, which advocates for a more sustainable way to recycle mattresses.
- Campaign Kit — Brenda Mayrack, who was a candidate for state auditor this year, pitched an idea (which is already live) for a custom design-work platform, which provides candidates with automated templates, design and branding at a lower cost. Mayrack won last year’s Delaware Global Startup Battle.
- Embark — Ross Leskowitz talked about his idea to find a train seat faster and more efficiently using an app before boarding the train. During the pitch event, Parikh said, he told his story of struggle in forming his idea and presenting it to the group.
Prior to the five pitches, Gov. Jack Markell spoke to the crowd, telling the audience, Parkih said, that it’s OK to fail. Before presenting, Mayrack called Sen. John Carney to ask for his advice, and within 45 minutes, he was sitting down with Leskowitz about next steps. “There’s proof in Delaware with this many people crowding around what we’re trying to achieve,” Parikh said. “They know how badly we need to succeed. If a startup gets publicity or funding, it’s a win for all of us.” Here are some tweets from the event: