Texas A&M Student Places Second In Annual SEC Pitch Competition
Stephanie Young, a senior animal science major at Texas A&M University, placed second in a field of 14 at the 5th annual SEC Student Pitch Competition, hosted virtually by the University of Georgia on Oct. 26.
She pitched her vet-tech startup, SKYPaws, LLC, a novel, all-in-one device that monitors the vital signs of animal patients to help prevent complications following surgery and at other times.
Young got the inspiration for her idea while working in a veterinary clinic before coming to Texas A&M. While cleaning the kennel area one day, she noticed that a dog that had just come out of routine surgery was not breathing. Despite the veterinary team’s best efforts, the dog died.
“I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a solution to keep pets from this terrible fate,” Young said. “As I talked to more veterinarians, I realized that this was a common issue. I realized that something needed to change. That year, I created an early prototype to what is now the SKYPaws device.”
While at Texas A&M, Young built SKYPaws into a company with a completely functional device that is now ready for testing.
The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School selected Young to represent the university at the competition.
The SEC Student Pitch Competition provides undergraduate or graduate-level teams from SEC universities a platform to showcase their ideas for ground-breaking products and services to a panel of 16 judges. Following two preliminary rounds of pitches, the judges selected three teams to compete in the final round of competition.
Students pitched ideas in diverse fields, from the financial sector to brand management to software development. The first place trophy and $5,000 went to Vulcan Line Tools, founded by Zac Young, a mechanical engineering student from Auburn University.
McFerrin Center Assistant Director LauraLee Hughes helped Young prepare for the competition.
“Stephanie is a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit and student talent at Texas A&M, and we are so proud of her taking second place,” Hughes said.
What’s next? Young said her company will soon go through a pre-seed angel funding round to seek resources to kickstart testing and the product’s launch.
“Managing SKYPaws while being a student has been one of the most mentally taxing things that I have ever done, but one of the most fulfilling,” Young said, adding that she will focus on SKyPaws full-time after graduating.
“SKYPaws is patent-pending and has a completely functional prototype that measures heart rate, ECG and temperature,” she said. “We are working on integrating oxygen saturation, which will be ready by the commercial product.”
After that, she intends to integrate the company’s own algorithms for respiratory rates so that the device can be used to access patient data quickly just one time or over an extended recovery time. For the latter, the device is taped onto the patient and will notify the veterinarian or technician if a problem arises.
After monitoring is complete, the data are converted into a PDF that can be exported into the patient’s records, and the device can be returned to its wireless charging station in preparation for use on another patient.
Young’s second-place showing is not the only recognition the McFerrin Center has earned in recent weeks. The Center also received the 2020 Exceptional Contributions in Entrepreneurship Research Award from the Global Consortium for Entrepreneurship Centers, which celebrates the best of university entrepreneurship.
In addition, this fall Texas A&M was recognized for the fourth consecutive year by the Princeton Review as a top university for both graduate and undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship.
“Being an Aggie entrepreneur means that I will always have an amazing support system behind me,” Young said. “There is so much value in the Aggie Network and the bonds that this university creates.”