Education / Entrepreneurs / Startups / Universities

Meet the local student-founders in the new Innovators of Progress cohort

The scholarship program for student entrepreneurs has a new group of ventures. Here's a look at the problems they're solving, and what they'll work on in the program.

Biopsies. Burnout. Gun violence. Coaching.

Those are the areas where student entrepreneurs in the latest cohort of Innovators of Progress are looking to bring new tools.

As reported earlier this year, Innovators of Progress is an entrepreneurship scholarship program launched by UMBC alum Markus Proctor. It recently named four scholars from Maryland and D.C. universities to the new cohort.

Through graduation, they will receive support while working on their venture alongside founding teams. That comes in the form of funding, with $1,000 in equity-free seed capital, and $500 or more of scholarship funding each semester they are in the program.

Alongside the funding, Proctor is setting up programming to help build. A big focus will be on customer discovery and product-market fit: The scholars will be learning how to interview users and get feedback on a product, as well as working on conducting the experiments to test assumptions.

“The philosophy of the program is, you don’t start and stop customer discovery,” Proctor said. “The most successful founders are the ones that are talking to customers all the time.”

The program will provide connections to paid internships at companies in the region, as well. The program is curated for each student, so Proctor is making connections with specific industry partners who can link with each team. And with a cohort model, the students will be sharing resources with each other, while each has identified a mentor from their own network that can support.

To get to know the cohort, we sent over some questions to each of the founders about the problem they’re solving, the product they’re building to address it and what they hope to gain from the program. Here are their responses:

Coaching Connections

Carletta Hurt. (Courtesy photo)

IP scholar: Carletta Hurt, University of the District of Columbia ’23

The problem: The venture aims to provide quality opportunities for black girls to achieve goals and advance to the next level in tangible, meaningful ways.

The product: A coaching and accountability management program where girls are connected to a coach who will work with them to create two to three obtainable goals and using a model to execute, track, and complete their goals.

Program goals: Fine-tuning the customer, building a solid platform, and connecting with others who are passionate and committed to the success of black girls.


Ashley Tsang (Courtesy photo)

IP scholar: Ashley Tsang, Johns Hopkins University ’22

The problem: PneuTech is advancing the safety and efficacy of biopsies. In 2019 alone, $2.7 billion was spent on the global biopsy market. Biopsies are a critical procedure to diagnose cancer and infections, and to track the progression of a patient’s treatment. Despite the necessity of biopsies, the standard of care technology is a straight needle system. This makes it challenging to direct the needle around critical structures to reach the target site and collect samples, leading to severe complications.

The product: We are developing the TroCap, the first device that increases biopsy range and decreases the risk of procedural complications. The TroCap is a curved biopsy needle device that allows doctors to easily navigate around critical body structures, such as blood vessels, in order to safely reach the biopsy site. As a result, doctors can safely biopsy samples and overall improve patient outcomes.

Program goals: Our team is excited to advance PneuTech in the Innovators of Progress program. With Innovators of Progress, we look forward to understanding and solidifying our market fit in order to ultimately transition our prototype into a market-ready product.

Team members:


Sanketh Andhavarapu (Courtesy photo)

IP scholarSanketh Andhavarapu, University of Maryland ’23

The problem: Over 40% of [healthcare pros] report experiencing burnout. Burned out healthcare professionals are more likely to make medical errors, deliver suboptimal patient care, and leave medicine altogether due to the consequences of burnout. Each year, burnout costs our healthcare system over $5 billion due to turnover, extended absences, and poor patient satisfaction. In brief, HCP burnout is a public health crisis, one that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The product: Vitalize is building the first mobile wellness app tailored to the lived experiences of healthcare providers. Our app leverages natural language processing to deliver a personalized selection of short, evidence-based modules designed to boost professional satisfaction and reduce burnout. We are also developing an administrator dashboard that allows hospital departments to deliver their wellness programming, which is traditionally in-person, digitally.

Program goals: Through Innovators of Progress, we hope to better define our customer segments and validate our current product iterations in preparation for a public beta launch later this year. The insights gained during this stage of our discovery will better guide which stakeholders we should target first. In the long-term, the goal for Vitalize is to gain acceptance into a recognized startup accelerator and/or raise pre-seed funding.

Team members:

AnTech Solutions

Andrew Karam (Courtesy photo)

IP scholar: Andrew Karam, University of Maryland ’23

The problem: I am working to solve and prevent the occurrence of school shootings, mass shootings and robberies faced with a lethal weapon.

The product: I am developing a system that utilizes thermal imaging, image processing and machine learning. My system works to reveal hidden items on a person through infrared radiation. These images are processed and then given to a machine learning model to predict if a person is concealing a threat. If the model returns a positive probability above a given threshold, an external stimulus is activated such as an alarm, a call to local authorities, or the locking of doors.

Program goals: Under the diligent navigation under the mentorship and advisors from Innovators of Progress, I hope that my system would be able to prosper in connections, funding, and resources to be able to launch close to my graduation date. As I would like to have this preventive measure in place as soon as possible.

Companies: University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) / Johns Hopkins University / University of Maryland

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