COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A pair of Ohio State University students are taking their business to Minneapolis with a grand prize of $50,000 on the line.
Adithya Ramaswami and Jack Murray founded their company “ParaWave” about one year ago, and it all started from a conversation one night.
“We’re passionate about drone technology. What can we do that’s meaningful. And that led us to start up ParaWave to engineer drone technology for emergency response teams,” said Ramaswami. “To help any first responder quickly assess any situation in a dynamic environment, to quickly get a birds eye view to quickly assess any situation.”
Now, they’ve qualified for the finals of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship E-Fest at the University of St. Thomas. The competition features 25 teams from across the country ready to pitch their business plan to a panel of judges. The winner walks away with $50,000 to put toward their startup.
Dean Laura Dunham of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship is excited to host students from all over this weekend.
“Over the course of the last seven years, we’ve given away $1.5 million to young entrepreneurs like these two here to help them start their businesses. It’s amazing to hear what these young people are doing, the problems they’re solving, and the great solutions that they’re bringing to the market,” she explained.
The judges are looking for a number of details, but it all boils down to three main things.
“They want to be presented with a problem, something people care about and affects a lot of people,” said Dunham. “They want to see what the solution is and do they think it’s better, and more innovative than anything that’s out there. Do they think this team can develop and feasibly deliver this solution with a business plan.”
Murray and Ramaswami have big plans for the winnings if they come out on top.
“That prize will be really foundational in making sure that we can get our technology into the hands of first responders so that they can focus on what matters most, saving lives,” saidMurray.
Their drone tech company has grown out of necessity, they said.
“Every year across the US there are over 358,000 house fires. For context, that’s at least one house fire every 90 seconds or so,” said Murray. “A fire doubles in size every 30 seconds which means there is no time to waste. And that’s where drones come in. They can gather important information like heat maps for example, quickly during emergencies.”
The duo from Ohio State has utilized local first responders in the development of their product. The City of Westerville Division of Fire and Police Department were among the first in central Ohio to utilize drone technology. Deputy Chief David Williams of the Fire Department said they use drones for a number of reasons like, “Search and rescue in open fields day and night. That’s why we have thermal imaging. Fire investigations. Getting aerial photos and even inside of building video.”
Williams and his counterpart Lt. Justin Alloway with the Police Department work together in Westerville, aiding each other’s departments when drone help is needed. They began with a small drone “off the rack” for between $1500-2000. Bigger drones, with longer flight time, and battery replacements end up costing tens of thousands of dollars.
Alloway said the drones they buy off the shelf have to then be tailored to do what they need them for. That’s where ParaWave comes in.
“When we have a company that’s willing to build it for what we need, we don’t have to change our operations. The drone is changing and has the capabilities to be able to get the job done most effectively,” said Alloway.
Whether the pair from Ohio State comes away victorious or not, they believe they’re already winners.
“The messaging of perseverance, determination, grit and innovation is just, it’s inspiring,” said Ramaswami.
And in Westerville, they have some proud supporters.
“It’s so refreshing to see young folks that are driving forward, and finding new ways to do things,” said Deputy Chief Williams.