Two engineering students qualify for ‘flash pitch’ to investors

Two entrepreneurial engineering students will deliver ‘flash pitches’ at an invitation-only qualifying event April 9 where judges – entrepreneurs and investors – will choose the top three to receive support to move their ideas through planning phases to launch.

Tate Travaglini and John Boyd are among nine students selected through Flash Pitch ’14, a student startup idea challenge hosted recently by Vanderbilt’s Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization. Travaglini and Boyd are both juniors seeking dual degrees – bachelor’s and master’s – in electrical engineering in 2015.


Travaglini’s startup idea is a website portal that offers consumers comparison costs of health care procedures. “The average cost of a hospital stay in the U.S. is $9,700. Americans cannot easily find out the cost of health care procedures before showing up at the hospital. This leaves them vulnerable to paying much more than they might have to. Data have shown that prices can vary by thousands of dollars between hospitals that are only a short drive apart,” Travaglini said.

Travaglini said users would log in, provide their health insurance information and then search for a procedure. They would receive pricing data tailored to their health insurance plan from multiple area hospitals.


Boyd’s idea is a website that takes some of the complexity out of buying a computer. “If you search online, you will find lots of technical information to help you find a PC for what you want to do. Even worse, the information is often filled with jargon meant for engineers, not average buyers,” Boyd said. “What if there were a website that could ask you a few simple questions and make a personal recommendation for you within a few minutes, for free, and with a clear explanation for why we chose this PC for you?”

Boyd said a link to a trusted seller would allow a customer to purchase the computer directly and computer experts would be available to explain choices in more depth, and offer other alternatives if needed.

The objective of flash pitch event is to provide the greater Vanderbilt student community an opportunity to explore commercialization of their entrepreneurial endeavors, said Rigved P. Joshi, manager, New Ventures Team at CTTC.

The format will be a 90-second pitch followed by a 5-minute Q&A session.

“The flash pitch competition is one such avenue for us to work with the bight and talented entrepreneurs at Vanderbilt,” Joshi said. The top three winners will receive one-on-one coaching to help build their business model, access to credible investors and mentors, access to talent for team building and access to local and regional accelerators.  Also, they will also receive shared space at the Nashville Entrepreneurship Center under the VU@EC initiative.

Judges are Mark Harris, CEO, NextGxDx; Shawn Glinter, CEO, Nanopherix, and Chief Mentor at The Nashville Entrepreneur Center; Vic Gatto, Founder, Jump Start Foundry and JumpWerx; Chris Booker, director of Corporate Development, XMi Holdings; and Yiaway Yeh, co-director, Office of Innovation, created by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in 2013. Yeh is a former mayor of Palo Alto, Calif.

Other student competitors are Ashley Schuering and Michael Elder, Owen School MBA students; senior Thomas Goodman, history; sophomores Miles Schimmel and Marco Tiburcio, economics; Nishant Badal, sophomore; and Ravi Atreya, Ph.D. student in biomedical informatics.