RaveBio Inc., a biotech equipment startup spun out from the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Department, beat out over 140 teams at UF’s Big Ideas business plan competition last week, winning 2nd place and a $10,000 prize.
RaveBio began in Fall 2022 as a student team in MAE’s EML4502 senior design course. The team was challenged to build a prototype orbital shaker table for UF’s Biofoundry. Team member Nickolas Saavedra realized the design’s market potential and founded a startup company to commercialize the shaker. Now a UF alumnus, Saavedra organized RaveBio Inc. as founding CEO and approached Dr. Matthew J. Traum, his senior design instructor, to embed the company with a team in the Capstone course. Dr. Traum, an MAE associate instructional professor, is a serial entrepreneur. He worked with Saavedra to build a student team to turn RaveBio’s prototype into a commercial product.
“I realized that shaker tables have not evolved for 50 years, and my senior design project represented an untapped opportunity to revolutionize this market,” Saavedra said. “Dr. Traum’s Capstone course provided the perfect platform to transform the prototype to a lucrative commercial product.”
The key innovation of the company’s flagship product, the Rave Shaker, is the ability for a single table to produce linear, orbital, and double orbital shake patterns in one device. Normally, biological research laboratories must buy three unique shakers to get all three patterns. Moreover, RaveBio’s shaker redesign enabled integration of programmable features and ability to connect wirelessly, both firsts in this industry.
“Our customers get more capabilities from the RaveShaker Table than buying three independent shakers, and our solution costs them less” Saavedra said. “MAE Capstone taught us to design and build products that capitalize on market opportunities, and the shaker table market proved ripe for innovation.”
Saavedra led RaveBio’s entry into the 2023 Big Ideas Competition organized by UF’s Warrington College of Business. He was joined by the Capstone student team of Antonella Cipriani, Alejandro Navarrete, Drew Latta, William O’Bryan, Jeremy Rutenberg, Tessa Sun, and Kyle Verlangieri. Initially, over 140 teams submitted business plans to the competition. In late April the best 16 were selected to pitch before four judges, and RaveBio made this cut. Next, the company pitched in competition against three other finalists before a panel. Finally, the winners were announced with RaveBio finishing second and receiving a $10,000 prize.
“We are thrilled at this outcome and grateful for the support and mentorship we received from the MAE Department and the Big Idea Competition,” Saavedra said. “This award confirms RaveBio is a company destined to revolutionize the biotech shaker space and ultimately improve outcomes across a range of industries: healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and food science.”
Dr. Traum said that RaveBio’s Big Idea Competition achievement represents a paragon example of engineering student entrepreneurship fostered by the MAE Capstone program, and he plans to expand and replicate this success with more student-founded businesses.
“Engineering students arrive in Capstone with great skills, enthusiasm, and passion,” Traum said. “We harness and focus students’ energy to forge partnerships with clients that convert their ideas into bona fide products ripe for commercial success.”
Traum said that the MAE Capstone program is already working with the Civil-Military Innovation Institute, a non-profit that bridges gaps in defense innovation, and Beyond the Box, a UF alumni founded EdTech start-up, to accelerate development of their ideas into products starting in Fall 2023.
This summer. RaveBio is advancing its RaveShaker Table into beta testing by placing units in UF’s SYBORGS and Soft Matter Labs in preparation to roll out commercial products by August 2023. For more information about RaveBio, please visit www.ravebio.com.