3 Day Startup explores the journey of student entrepreneurs from all over the world in the ongoing blog series, Born in Dorms. Universities are ripe for more innovation: the combination of bright students, open information, and more accessible tech creates an environment where student companies can flourish better than ever before. These highly motivated and driven students share their successes, failures, and everything in between as they navigate the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship in their local communities. Read more about each student’s unique perspective on building a viable company in and around campus.
Carolyn Yarina, a senior chemical engineering student at the University of Michigan co-founded CentriCycle with fellow student social entrepreneur Alex Thinath in August 2012.
CentriCycle is a non-profit working to improve healthcare in rural India through the implementation of sustainable diagnostic technology and disease education. In India, one out of every three people live in rural areas and lack local access to basic healthcare. “We have identified one key factor in the increasing disease incidence as the paucity of point-of-care diagnosis in rural villages in India,” says Yarina.
CentriCyle is launching its first device in India later this year: the CentriCycle Centrifuge. A centrifuge is a device that spins at high speeds to separate blood constituents. Once blood is separated, simple paper strips known as rapid diagnostic tests (RDT’s) can be used to diagnose diseases such as HIV, syphilis, and malaria. “Our device is hand-powered, affordable at $25, and enables point-of-care diagnosis in less than 5 minutes. Our total Indian market is $11.5 million,” says Yarina.
In addition to the co-founders, CentriCycle now consists of 21 student volunteers from 14 different majors, ranging from freshman undergraduate to MD and PhD students. Yarina says, “In 5 years we will be cash-flow positive and will enable 19.7 million positive disease diagnosis including 13.9 million cases of anemia, 163,000 of HIV, and 774,000 of dengue fever. In 10 years we will have 15 times this impact.’’ This social impact Yarina mentions has been recognized in several different capacities. For example, in 2012 CentriCycle was named a semifinalist in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, a global competition for student social entrepreneurs, and they also received a grant from the NCIIA (National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance).
Access to a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem at the University of Michigan has been crucial for the development of CentriCycle. Yarina says, “We have utilized resources from a variety of sources, and we wouldn’t have come as far as we are today without such help.”
For example, some of the classes Yarina took at the University of Michigan have been key to how CentriCycle was developed. These classes include, Engineering 100, Design in the Real World, and Social Venture Creation Practicum.
This is also CentriCyle’s second term at TechArb, the University of Michigan student accelerator. Acceptance into this program offered them office space and and connections to a network of mentors and partners.
“M-HEAL is a student club that has been our incubator. They helped us determine the problem we were addressing through a survey they sent out to clinics in the developing world, and have helped be our base over the last 3 years,” Yarina says, “We have also utilized the international transactions clinic for law advice and the University of Michigan Hospital to help fully validate our prototype.”
Their current advisors include professors and entrepreneurs like Dr. Charles Monroe in the Chemical Engineering department at the university and Moses Lee, who previously directed TechArb. Combined with partnerships and contacts in India, such as The Swami Vivekanda Youth Movement, a development organization engaged in building a new civil society in India, CentriCycle is looking to reach several additional milestones this upcoming year. Yarina says, “We want to establish 501c(3) status, fundraise a seed round of $750,000, establish a final team, and start clinical trials in November.”
“One of the things I heard when I was starting was, ‘the highs are high and the lows are low.’ This couldn’t be more true. Launching a startup is damn difficult, there is probably a 98 percent chance we will fail, and we are trying to solve one of the world’s biggest problems. But I will take that 2 percent chance that I will impact the lives, possibly save the lives of over 300 million people, over a 90 percent chance that I will impact the lives of a few hundred any day. That is what I think entrepreneurship comes down to. We are changing the world. If we don’t get it right the first time — well, there is always next time,” she says.
About 3 Day Startup
3 Day Startup (3DS) teaches entrepreneurial skills to university students in an extreme hands-on environment. In addition to supporting budding entrepreneurs, 3DS programs cultivate entrepreneurial communities that contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship ecosystems in the regions surrounding these university programs. This proven program provides students the tools they need to start successful companies. To date, more than 39 companies have come out of 3DS to collectively raise $9.5 million in investor capital and more than a dozen have been accepted to prestigious incubators and accelerators such as Y Combinator and TechStars.
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