Tendai Charasika and Alice Shade, entrepreneurs in residence in the UofL Office of Research and Innovation, coach the spring 2023 LaunchIt cohort
Tendai Charasika and Alice Shade, entrepreneurs in residence in the UofL Office of Research and Innovation, coach the spring 2023 LaunchIt cohort

The University of Louisville’s LaunchIt entrepreneurial bootcamp has wrapped its spring 2023 session, graduating eight innovators and founders working to improve electric vehicles, health care and more.

LaunchIt, through the UofL Office of Research and Innovation, is an intensive eight-week hybrid course focused on Steve Blank’s lean launchpad methodology. The program includes coaching, mentoring and curriculum including lessons on customer discovery, product validation and other considerations when preparing for market launch.

The eight innovator team leads in the spring 2023 session were:

  • Leanne Bledsoe, a researcher at Western Kentucky University, who works with fluorescent dye tracing products and services for investigating potential contamination to groundwater.*
  • Rachel DeWees, a doctoral student at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, who’s developing lightweight, long-lasting lithium-ion batteries meant to improve the mileage capability electric vehicles.*
  • Saba Gray, founder of BioGLITZ, who’s developed a biodegradable, hemp-based glitter, while exploring her product application for environmentally-conscious textile manufacturers, artisans and consumers.
  • Candace Harrington, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing who’s developing “iCanDriveSafely”, an AI-driven mobile app helping those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias make smarter driving choices.*
  • Caleb He, an undergraduate student who’s developing a tool to help doctors in developing countries with an easy and reliable way to provide quantitative measurement of tissue rigidity for earlier detection of breast cancer.*
  • Laura Leon Machado, a researcher at UofL’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, who’s developing a pediatric postural control chair meant to improve spinal conditions.*
  • Ryan G. Nazar, a neurosurgeon, developing a software application, Practical Healthcare, creating a community of health care consumers to empower a patient-first approach to health care engagement.
  • Melissa Smith, an assistant professor in the UofL School of Medicine, who’s developing genomics and bioinformatics tools for predicting individual responsiveness to viral vaccines or infectious disease.*

Starred participants received LaunchIt tuition funding and support through UofL’s NSF I-Corps site program, which pairs innovative UofL faculty, staff and students (undergraduate and graduate) with entrepreneurial mentors to drive research-backed technologies to market.

Harrington, who had no business experience prior to LaunchIt, said the experience changed her perspective on the potential impact of her research.

“I started LaunchIt with a good idea and no business knowledge,” she said. “Over eight weeks, I developed the acumen to pitch a business and commercialization plan to over 100 people, with potential investors expressing interest in supporting our innovative start-up! What an amazing program!”

The LaunchIt program is offered by UofL New Ventures, a group within the UofL Office of Research and Innovation that works to launch and grow startups, and is supported in part by Amplify Louisville. LaunchIt coaches include the office’s Entrepreneurs in Residence, knowledgeable founders with an in-depth understanding of launching and growing a business. The program also taps into the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for its speaker lineup, bringing in real-world experience and insights of local innovators, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

“The participants in this cohort represent such a breadth of industries, each working to turn a good idea into a good product,” said Will Metcalf, an associate vice president of research and innovation who leads UofL New Ventures. “I’m proud of their progress this session and the connectivity this program creates between industry and our campus, helping to launch new companies, ideas and economic development.”

The next session of LaunchIt, beginning in fall 2023, is now enrolling. More information and registration is available at uofl.me/launchit.