For our Startup Spotlights, Times of Entrepreneurship scouted the most successful startups that spun out of top university competitions and programs. The impact of such awards can be many years in the making, especially in the DeepTech space.
Interviewee: Ramez Attia, co-founder
Which university challenge did you win and when?
We participated in the Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge (www.inventoregon.org), the state’s only college-level prototyping competition. The competition started in February and finals were on Sept. 18, 2020. We presented our invention and competed for $30,000 in cash prizes. We ended up winning the People’s Choice Award (the people invited to watch get to vote) and 1st Prize for a total of $14,500 ($10,000 1st Prize, $2,000 People’s Choice and $2,500 legal startup package at Stoel Rives).
What is your elevator pitch? Has it changed much since you started?
Our device, Cari, prevents a DUI from ever having the chance to occur. It is a portable breathalyzer connected via bluetooth to your car’s ignition. Right now, there are portable breathalyzers that only tell you your blood alcohol level and do not disable your ignition to stop you from driving. And then there’s state-mandated interlock systems that people only get AFTER you get a DUI. Cari takes a preventative approach so someone never puts themselves or others in danger.
What should we know about you?
We both are student-athletes at Lewis & Clark College and team captains at our respective sports (Matt is Team Captain at the Varsity Basketball Team and Ramez is Team Captain at the Men’s tennis team). Matt majors in international affairs and Ramez majors in economics and psychology, and both of us have a minor in entrepreneurship. This startup means more to us than just a project, it is becoming a channel for us to influence our peers and have a positive impact on our community and society, especially as two people of color.
What are you looking for?
We are looking for people who share our vision. We’re not a company that’s selling straws, we’re a company that is saving lives and solving drunk driving. This problem is bigger than us, and we’re looking for people who aren’t in it for a quick paycheck but are willing to go the extra mile, stay up the extra hour and go to distance with us to make sure that no lives are lost that could have been avoided.
Why should someone invest in you?
We have both played sports our entire life, we know that we are going to hit rock bottoms and mountain tops, but it’s the journey that we focus on. Everything that we have learned from sports in teamwork, determination, and being goal-oriented, we are going to translate into our business. We understand that we aren’t going to build a million dollar company overnight, but we are going to build a company that values itself on the service provided, the lives we impact, and most importantly a new standard of care for our employees and customers.
Is there a clear evidence of success you would like to share?
Our clear evidence of success is going to see the overall number of deaths a year decrease. We want to start seeing that stable trend of DUI’s and deaths sharply reduced over the years to come and eventually be at 0.
If you would describe your startup to have a superpower, what would it be?
A guardian angel. Our mission is to protect you and make sure you wake up to see tomorrow. We all like to go out and have fun and it will be our duty to bring you back home safely. Our motto is alert today – alive tomorrow. Help us help protect you and watch over you.
How much have you raised so far and how many employees are you?
We raised $14,500 from the InventOR competition and currently have two full time employees (myself and Matt). We are in the process of raising a seed round of funding.
Where are you based?
We are based in Oregon
More info on the competition:
Name: Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge
Specialty: across categories
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This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.