Equalize logo

A pitch competition & symposium to empower academic women entrepreneurs

Equalize 2023 Pitch Competition Results Announced

By Kayti Mangels | July 11, 2023

Last month’s (June 29, 2023) virtual Equalize pitch day marked the end of the fourth year of the Equalize program. The itinerary for the event encompassed a keynote presentation by Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia, pitch presentations, a venture capital panel discussion and an awards ceremony. 

Kickstarting the event was Dr. Bhatia’s inspiring retelling of her start-up journey. A serial entrepreneur, Dr. Bhatia’s first company, Hepregen, was launched in 2007—just before her second daughter’s first birthday. Today, she has successfully founded nine companies in the nanomedicine field with the aim of developing technologies to help treat and detect liver and oncological diseases. Dr. Bhatia finished off her presentation by giving advice on the realities of creating a start-up in an academic environment and urging women to take the leap towards entrepreneurship, providing the perfect segue to this year’s pitches. 

To accommodate the wide industry areas of the applicants, the Equalize team decided to add two more pitch categories, Physical Sciences and Digital Tools, alongside Medical Technology and Therapeutics from previous years. The 22 pitchers each had 10 minutes to present their startup or technology, followed by answering the judges’ questions or receiving advice based on the judges’ own experiences.

After all of the pitch presentations were completed, the attendees heard a panel discussion from several VCs on the topic "Funding in a Challenging Economic Environment.” The panelists were Rima Chakrabarti of KdT Ventures, Rich Ganz of Orange Grove Bio and Nancy Hong of RiverVest. Overall, the panelists agreed the current funding environment is categorized by a strong aversion risk. In the current landscape, it’s crucial for startups seeking funding to present their companies in the best possible light, focusing on aspects such as their team, pitch, and current milestones. A video of the panel discussion will be available on the Equalize web site in the coming weeks.

Completing this year’s event was the awards ceremony, with two awards offered in each sector: the People’s Choice Award and the Judges Award. Beginning with the People’s Choice Award, the winners are: 

  • Mojdeh Dehghan, University of Tennessee College of Dentistry (Therapeutics)
  • Christine O’Brien, Washington University in St. Louis (Medical Technology)
  • Mari Winkler, University of Washington (Physical Sciences)
  • Rachel Tinius, Western Kentucky University (Digital Tools)

The winners of the Judges Award are:

  • Claire Clelland, UCSF (Therapeutics)
  • Christine O’Brien, Washington University in St. Louis (Medical Technology)
  • Greeshma Gadikota, Cornell University (Physical Sciences)
  • Breanna Hetland, University of Nebraska Medical Center (Digital Tools)

Congratulations to all of the Equalize 2023 participants for graduating from this year’s program! Videos of many of the presentations will be available on the Equalize web site in the coming weeks.

At Equalize, we’re already looking forward to next year’s program and cohorts. Keep a lookout in October for our call for applications announcement. 

Written by: Abby Akirav