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The classroom, a place for entrepreneurship

Some of the UB students’ initiatives are growing companies

The UB supports the students so that they work on entrepreneur projects, some of which are consolidated and grow. University students, for instance, created a platform for the medical monitoring of patients from home that has become more necessary than ever given the current pandemic. Starting from the fact that the university years are a great moment to promote entrepreneurship, StartUB! supports the students who have an idea until they materialize it, by creating a company or social entity.

Claudio Cruz: “The profile of the entrepreneur is changing because younger students are entrepreneurs by nature”

StartUB! Lab, a coworking and incubation space the university provides to entrepreneur initiatives, was very useful to HumanITcare. Founded in 2018, the company commercializes a platform for the remote monitoring of patients. They are now working with more than twenty hospitals and have started the CARDIO4HEALTH program at Hospital Cínic together with Ferrer laboratory. Also, they began to internationalize their activity with the Hospital de Braga, Portugal. Among the founders of the company is the former UB student of Psychology Núria Pastor. The founders have based this company on a platform that allows the gathering of data of a great variety of devices (blood pressure monitor, heart rate monitor, glucose meter, etc.). It also processes data that are subjective on the mood of the patients, through customized forms.

For HumanITcare, COVID-19 has been an inflection point. “Due to the pandemic, the application of digital health has become necessary. The sector has adopted in only a few months, changes that were expected to take a 5 or 10-year process”, notes Oriol Mir, from HumanITcare. Remote medicine reduces the workload of professionals and fatigue of patients, while it improves how patients follow the treatments: “Precisely what we need now, –adds the expert– we are eager to advance and improve the quality of life of our patients; we even offered our platform for free to COVID-19 patients”.

BeneSit is a project under another phase. Its launchers hope to step into the market by next summer, with their product: an elastic case with sensors and an electronic device to detect, through algorithms, if one is sitting in the right way and therefore avoid postures that can damage our back. The creators of BeneSit, Enrique Vilalta and Joan Ortiz, are biomedical engineers and former students of the master’s degree on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Biomedical Engineering of the UB. Their idea results from their master’s degree final project, and with this idea they won the StartUB! Sprint Award. They say that a key element was to work in StartUB!. “We met many mentors who helped us there”. Vilalta and Ortiz have validated the technology and are now testing ten prototypes in several companies, while they are talking to producers to industrialize the product.

Regarding EVIX, they are still working on the functional prototype of the product: a cervical airbag for the bikers’ helmets. “Since it is a product for the safety of people, we need time to get the certifications and make many safety tests”, notes Marc Millet, former student of the master’s degree on Sport Business Management of the UB. He adds that they “hope to get the full functional prototype ready after this summer in order to conduct pilot tests in a real environment”. Moreover, they were trained and guided at the UB on the creation of the business and that they are still in contact with StartUB! to receive contacts or training on entrepreneurship. They are positive about the future of the business: “There is no doubt that safety measures for bikers will be more frequent and will end up being mandatory; we have to promote a safe mobility”.

Entrepreneur profile

During the last academic year, fifty-three projects and seven companies were launched with the support of StartUB!, which organizes activities every year, followed by 800 students. Claudio Cruz, director of StartUB!, says that “the profile of the current entrepreneur student is a young student from the scientific and technical and health fields”. However, “there is a percentage of students of humanities and social sciences that never thought about entrepreneurship because they did not know about it, and they do now” notes Cruz, “the profile of the entrepreneur is changing because younger students are entrepreneurs by nature”, he says. Nevertheless, this entrepreneur profile maintains the gender bias which exists in many other fields: “We may have a slight female majority among those who receive training on entrepreneurship, but most of the projects that reach the final phases are launched by men”, notes Cruz. “In StartUB!, we are working with more female mentors, facilitators and speakers that can inspire students who start in entrepreneurship”.

Supporting entrepreneur students

StartUB! Offers activities to get started in the Ideate program, which includes Inspiring talks in which former students with ongoing entrepreneur projects talk about their experience. Students can also join Innovation Day (iDay), a session organized by EIT Health, where students try to find solutions to real challenges in the field of health.

The second program is Validate, which offers, for instance, a course on the introduction to business creation, Business Model Lab. Regarding the two most advanced phases in the development of an initiative, the programs Launch and Accelerate offer the option to compete in the StartUB! Sprint Awards, given to the top entrepreneur projects, and the Boost UB Health programs on the acceleration of companies in the field of health, and Consolida’t, aimed at self-employed people and microbusinesses. Moreover, StartUB is always with the students through mentorships.

Claudio Cruz
StartUB! head offices.