Veterinary Innovation Challenge asks students to indulge their entrepreneurial sides

To Nikhil Joshi, the veterinary industry is full of endless possibilities for entrepreneurial veterinary students who have big ideas and the ambition to develop those ideas into businesses.

The opportunity to drive growth in the industry through entrepreneurship is why Joshi, a student in the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine class of 2015, worked with other students to create the inaugural 2014 Veterinary Innovation Challenge

"The idea came to me after a meeting I had with CEOs of a veterinary insurance company founded by former Wharton business school students," said Joshi, who is also the Veterinary Innovation Challenge executive director. "I thought it was a shame that vet students weren't exposed to the possibilities that exist for entrepreneurial activity in the veterinary industry. I wanted to change that."

The competition, which was founded by the University of Pennsylvania chapter of the Veterinary Business Management Association, gives veterinary students at AVMA-accredited schools a chance to indulge their interests in business by creating innovative products or services, said Joshi. According to him, the caliber of business plans submitted in the competition's first year confirmed that veterinary students are a largely untapped source of innovation.

"The level of innovation was superb - ranging from small animal to livestock, charitable to profitable, in all areas of veterinary medicine and services. We selected the top eight based on creativity, feasibility, and chance for success," Joshi said.

Veterinary Innovation Challenge competition structure

The competition accepted business overviews from veterinary students from January through May of 2014. Veterinary Innovation Challenge student management and faculty advisers voted on the submissions and narrowed the field down to eight individuals or teams who were invited to the Grand Finals event later in the year.

The eight finalists were each assigned a mentor - an accomplished entrepreneur available to help students refine their business plans and prepare for their Grand Finals appearance.

During the live finals event scheduled for Sept. 6, the students will present their plans with the potential to win more than $17,000 in cash and in-kind prizes to help them move their businesses forward. The top team will be awarded the Veterinary Innovation Prize, a $10,000 cash award made possible through the support of AVMA-PLIT.

Joshi said he plans on continuing the competition on an annual basis with assistance from sponsors, and explained that he believes the interest generated this year will increase in subsequent years.

Top eight finalists' business plans revealed

Joshi shared overviews of the eight finalists' business plans, which the students will present live in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sept. 6:

PetSync: PetSync is a mobile app built for pet owners to coordinate, streamline, and track medical and routine care. Households with shared animal care responsibilities can use PetSync to ensure that each pet is properly managed. The app allows petsitters to quickly acquire both normal care instructions and emergency medical information.

iPet: iPet is a communication platform to improve the efficiency of communication between pet owners and veterinarians as well as bring relevant information to all those that subscribe. This web-based program will be optimized for mobile devices and tablets to cater to the modern pet and practice owner. iPet features include, but are not limited to, quick access to pet owners’ chosen veterinary practice, FAQ links, alerts, and “find my pet” GPS.

MyDVM: MyDVM is on the forefront of the next generation of communication, information sharing, and diagnostics within veterinary medicine. Through MyDVM services, pet owners will be able to engage with one another and their veterinarian in a manner unlike anything that currently exists within the animal health industry. 

Tale Chaser Books: Tale Chaser Books provides professional veterinary guidance to children and parents through the use of simple but captivating stories and pictures. Our corporate mission is to spark curiosity, encourage respect, and instill a better understanding for pets’ health in families. The books capture the hearts of children with their loving portrayal of the human-animal bond. At the same time, they teach lessons about animal health which meet the educational expectations of parents. With this book series, a veterinarian speaks up for her patients in a fun and creative way.

The Knee Whisperers: Stifle arthroscopy is one of the most common surgeries used to treat canine cranial cruciate ligament disease, the leading cause of canine hind limb lameness in the United States. Use of currently available stifle arthroscopic instruments frequently causes iatrogenic patient injury, and their design, unchanged in the past 15 years, can complicate the successful completion of the arthroscopic intervention. The Knee Whisperers have developed a new technique addressing the need for safer, more effective stifle arthroscopy in dogs. We are introducing the use of an innovative and patented* technology that will revolutionize arthroscopic stifle surgery. This novel instrumentation can reduce future veterinary costs but more importantly, it can also reduce the potential crippling side effects of iatrogenic injury associated with traditional stifle arthroscopy.

 * ClearVu 2.7 Flexible Cannula from Cannuflow Inc. (San Jose, CA), Patent #5527276

Ranchband: The Ranchband™ is a syringe holder headband, designed to provide veterinarians with a safe and efficient hands-free method of transporting filled, capped, medical syringes (without needle) to treat pastured cattle, livestock and pets. The Ranchband reduces risk of injury and stress to both handlers and animals, while saving time, money, manpower, and medicinal product.  

SPEAK: Purchasing or adopting a new pet is an exciting, life-changing occasion. However, in spite of the initial thrill, most people don’t actually know how (or make time) to deliver optimal care to their pets. Despite being "members of the family," a majority of the estimated 70 million dogs and 75 million cats in the U.S. spend a portion of their life living unhealthily or die prematurely – suffering from preventable conditions and diseases including obesity, diabetes, dental disease, and heartworm. What if there was a way to help pet owners deliver better care to their pets? We develop wearable pet technology that rewards the owner for more effectively responding to their pets’ needs so their pets can live longer, healthier lives. 

Toro Tech: The Toro Tech founders believe that pets and their owners deserve to live together in harmony. The company combines a knowledge of animal behavior with cutting edge technology in order to address common pet training issues. The Hush-Puppy is the first automatic dog training device that uses positive reinforcement to train a dog not to bark.