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Three men posing with a giant check for Starling Medical, the first place winners for the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition
Starling Medical took home the top $50,000 prize for the seventh annual Texas A&M New Ventures Competition. From left: Dr. Saurabh Biswas, executive director for TEES commercialization and entrepreneurship; Alex Arevalos, head of Starling Medical; and Andrew Morriss, vice president of entrepreneurship and economic development for Innovation Partners. | Image: Andrew Chin/Specialties Photography

Despite the challenges of the past year, the seventh annual Texas A&M New Ventures Competition (TNVC) was held in May to recognize some of the most innovative startups in Texas. Hosted by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and Texas A&M University Innovation Partners, this year’s competition was a hybrid platform. Due to COVID-19, last year’s event was held completely online.

Houston's Starling Medical, headed by Alex Arevalos, took home the top $50,000 prize. The company is a digital health device company developing an artificial intelligence (AI) and tech-enabled platform as a safer, smarter alternative to urinary catheters for individuals with neurogenic bladder dysfunction.

“TNVC was an amazing experience for us at Starling, and it was such an honor to win the competition, especially since there were so many exceptional companies there this year,” Arevalos said. “This first-place prize and connections we made during it will be instrumental in accelerating our commercialization efforts to bring our life-transforming solution to our future users. Based on our accelerated regulatory path, we expect to be able to bring our device to market in the next two years,” he said.

Arevalos said the mission of Starling Medical is to restore the ability to urinate safely and conveniently to an underserved patient population with a condition called neurogenic bladder dysfunction. “Currently, the standard of care for these people is for them to self-catheterize five to eight times a day on a set schedule because they can’t sense their bladders anymore or activate them on their own due to a neurological condition like a spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis,” Arevalos explained. “ It’s an archaic process that leaves people with a significant reduction in quality of life and puts them at risk for costly, life-threatening infections.

“With our AI and tech-enabled device we call the UrinControl System, our users will be able to urinate safely and conveniently again on their own at the push of a button. In addition, our device communicates with their smartphone to help them track their bladder fullness throughout the day, and it uses AI and our connected telehealth portal to warn them if they are developing a urinary tract infection,” Arevalos said.

“After the necessity of pivoting to a completely virtual program last year due to COVID-19, we were pleased to have had the vast majority of the competition in person this year,” said Saurabh Biswas, executive director of TEES’ commercialization and entrepreneurship division, which founded this program. “TNVC, now in its seventh year, is a flagship event in the state-wide startup innovation ecosystem. We are always excited to learn more about these Texas startups and to hear directly from founders and inventors about their technologies that can not only improve the health and well-being of our citizens and the environment, but also positively impact our local and state economies.”

“Innovation Partners was proud to co-host the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition in collaboration with many entities across the A&M System, a diverse group of sponsors and countless volunteers,” said Andrew Morriss, vice president of entrepreneurship and economic development. “With the support of our generous sponsors, TNVC had a record setting 2021 program despite all the challenges of the past year. We know that the investment will come back to benefit our state economy many times over and benefit society through the impact of the game changing technologies the competing ventures commercialize.”

The prize pool for this year’s competition was more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind services. 

The full list of winners includes:

  • 1st Place $50,000 Prize — Starling Medical 
  • 2nd Place $35,000 Prize — Ictero Medical
  • 3rd Place $25,000 Prize — Koda Health 
  • 4th Place $15,000 Prize — MicroSilicon 
  • 5th Place $10,000 Prize — Vitanova Biomedical 
  • 6th Place $5,000 Prize — Code Walker

Elevator pitch competition:

  • 1st — $5,000 — EmGenisys 
  • 2nd — $4,000 — Skypaws
  • 3rd — $2,000 — Solenic Medical
  • 4th — $1,000 — TYBR Health 

Special prizes:

  • Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation Launch Prize — Heliowave 
  • Aggie Angel Network Investment Prize — Vitanova Biomedical
  • pH partners Investment Prize(s) — Koda Health and Starling Medical  
  • Southwest National Pediatric Device Consortium Prize(s) — Solenic Medical and Hero Medical 
  • Hollinden Marketers & Strategists Services Prize — TYBR Health 
  • Amerra Visualization Services Prize — TYBR Health 
  • Paragon Innovations Prize(s) — Solenic Medical and Drill Docs
  • Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner IP Legal Services Prize — TEZCAT Laboratories
  • Biotex Investment Prize — Ictero Medical 
  • Innovators Legal Services Prize(s) — MicroSilicon and Vitanova Biomedical  
  • West Webb Albritton and Gentry Services Prize — Riverwalk Therapeutics
  • Axle – Box Services Prize(s) — SkyPaws and AVA Propulsion