Bioengineering Roommates Win the Husky Startup Challenge
For fourth-year bioengineering majors Laura Bilal and Meghan Quon, their third-place finish in the 2020 Husky Startup Challenge, taking home $1,000 in funding to pursue their venture, was inspired by their own daily habits and needs. The “challenge” is part of the Entrepreneurs Club—Northeastern’s venture incubator and start-up pitch competition.
The pair’s invention, KLIP Tech, offers an app connected to a rechargeable device that clips onto clothing and can be activated with either one or two clicks in situations where the wearer may be in some form of distress and unable to quickly access their phone. One click sends a message warning of the wearer’s situation and location to a list of personalized emergency contacts, uploaded in the app, and two clicks sends a message to law enforcement to prioritize the wearer’s safety. The app also contains a community aspect for users to share their stories of harassment anonymously.
“KLIP Tech sparked out of a personal need because we’re both runners in Boston. Meghan’s on the club running team, I’m on the club basketball team, and so we go for runs often and you kind of hear about stories of people feeling unsafe or about things that have happened in the community,” said Bilal. “You don’t feel the safest when you know that the other person’s going for a run at night alone or something and it just sparked out of that necessity and desire to feel safer in our own communities.”
KLIP Tech’s intention is to help remedy this same issue on a larger scale.
“Online we’ve read tons and tons of testimonials and stories of women who’ve experienced street harassment, both verbal and physical, and it’s crazy how few solutions there are out there to make an individual feel safer. It’s not something that we should have to deal with,” said Quon. “But it’s a reality, so we were really inspired to work towards helping women feel a bit safer, including ourselves.”
Bilal and Quon, who are roommates as well, met at pre-departure NU.In program orientation for freshman students going abroad in their first semester before departing for their respective programs in Greece and Australia in 2017.
The pair had considered working together to come up with a project throughout their time living together in Boston, until Bilal connected with a former high school classmate who is one of the Husky Startup Challenge’s co-directors ahead of the fall semester.
“We both were always interested in becoming part of the entrepreneurship community here at Northeastern because it’s so large,” said Quon. “Working from home and doing school online kind of gave us the time to really commit to getting into the Husky Startup Challenge process, so it’s been great timing.”
Quon, who recently completed a co-op at Takeda Pharmaceutical as a device development engineer, and Bilal, who is currently on co-op at the Bose Corporation as their Field Performance Management Technical Co-op, also cited the amount of time invested, the Startup Challenge’s boot camps and the mentoring of third-year mechanical engineering major and former Startup Challenge winner Jaison Patel as key to their success with KLIP Tech.
“It was just the sheer amount of hours put into this that lifted us and allowed us to place in my opinion. We’d be walking down the street to go get coffee on the weekends and just be saying the pitch to each other. People probably thought we were crazy,” said Bilal. “But in the long run, it helps tremendously to have put the amount of hours we put into researching and making sure the pitch was exactly what we wanted.”
After so much positive feedback on KLIP Tech following their third-place finish, Quon and Bilal have shifted their focus to developing their physical product through capitalizing on Northeastern’s resources by applying for additional funding through Origin as well as getting involved with both IDEA, Northeastern’s student-led venture accelerator, and Generate which is a student run product development studio that is part of the Sherman Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship Education. The pair hopes Generate will help with development and prototype work after applying to be hardware and software clients.
Honestly, I think we were surprised by how much feedback and support we’ve gotten. Even in the past week or so since the expo, people have been reaching out to us,” said Quon. “We feel really validated that this is something that we can really pursue and having all of this positive feedback inspires us even more to keep going with it.”
The pair plans on continuing their work with KLIP Tech, with eyes toward expanding the purpose towards other audiences such as children and elderly citizens, as well as toward a possible integration into a product line of outside clothing brands in the future.
For a pair of roommates who had been debating developing a project together for a few years, the opportunities presented by the Husky Startup Challenge and Northeastern’s student resources allowed them to turn an idea spawned out of personal desire into reality.
“If you have an idea and you have a passion and want to pursue it, anyone should feel like they can. The community at Northeastern is so welcoming, and it helps to get past that mental barrier, which once you do is such a rewarding experience,” said Bilal.
See Related Story: Bioengineering Students Win 3rd Place at Husky Startup Challenge