Mid-Summer Update from Med3D

Greetings from the Med3D team in the Duke Startup Challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with our project, we are in the process of commercializing a technology used to evaluate and improve breast imaging systems. We are having a great summer so far and are focusing our efforts on a variety of avenues. These include exploring funding opportunities through grants and investors, continuing to improve our product through research and development, and developing relationships with our future customers.

We are making great progress towards our goal and are learning a lot along the way! The next few months will be critical for us as we get feedback from our potential customers and evolve the product to fit their needs.

We are looking forward to presenting at the Startup Challenge Finale!



July Reflections

Time is flying by this summer at MaxPoint Interactive. Each day I learn something new as I dive deeper and gain more experience in the digital advertising world. While going into the summer I had strong interests in business, innovation, marketing, technology, and advertising as well as the creativity and problem-solving skills to apply to these areas, I now find myself armed with quantifiable skills gradually absorbed over the past 8 weeks that give me a more grounded view of the industry – and every day I am struck by how much I am loving it!

MaxPoint’s account managers (AMs) work at the heart of the digital advertising campaigns that the company delivers, and, as an account management intern, I am right in the middle of this activity. I work with the AMs on my team to help set up campaigns, negotiate proposals with clients, develop audience targeting strategies, monitor campaign performance, and compile campaign insights to apply learnings towards future campaigns. While I don’t run my own campaigns or directly interact with clients, I am involved in every piece of the puzzle throughout the campaign process and am learning more every day about how MaxPoint provides smart, targeted, and innovative online advertising. My main goal for the summer was to absorb as much as possible, and I definitely feel that I am succeeding. In addition to my daily activities helping to monitor and manage campaigns, I have also been able to take on several individual projects to help streamline the overall account management process.

Beyond everything I’ve learned and grown to understand throughout my time with MaxPoint thus far, what has probably struck me the most about the company is its atmosphere. Just walking around our (brand new!) office you can truly appreciate the volume of what can be accomplished when you put together a group of fun-loving and creative yet extremely intelligent people with a common goal. Though you may never be sure when someone will whiz by on a scooter or when you’ll need to defend yourself against a nerf gun attack, there is no doubt that MaxPoint is doing big things, and I’m so lucky to be a part of it!

Thanks for reading,


Mid-Summer Update


We hope everyone has been enjoying their summers. Rangeland Solutions has been hard at work over the past few months and it has been a great experience. For this summer we had two primary goals: First, to start a fundraising campaign and raise enough money to enroll 30 more customers and launch two more projects, on top of our pilot, this coming fall. To raise the funds, Rangeland has been networking with potential donors and soliciting donations from multiple sources. Most notably, we have recently submitted a grant application to USAID and we will officially be launching a campaign on Indiegogo in mid-August. I can say that fundraising for a nonprofit is a lot of work, writing up grants, talking with donors and generating lots of informational material and content. However, we are progressing well and we hope our Indiegogo campaign is successful.

Our second goal is to develop a Monitoring and Evaluation Program, so we can measure and assess the social, economic and environmental impacts of our work. Establishing the program entails collecting baseline data from the pastoralists (those who raise livestock) in the region we work, particularly from those who are enrolling in our program in the fall. To collect this baseline information we added a field researcher, Thomas Turere, to our team. Thomas is currently in the process of developing our M&E protocol and methodology, specifically he is writing the questionnaires for the interviews. In the next two weeks Thomas will begin to administer the questionnaires and collect data through interviews. We hope to collect information from at least 60 household, and complete the study by the end of August.

We have been very pleased with how this summer has progressed. We appear to be on target to accomplish our goals by the end of the Innovation program and we are pleased with our results to-date. We hope to continue moving forward and in fact, I will be moving out to Nairobi in mid-August to directly oversee our operations and our expansion this fall. So it is certainly very exciting times for us. Take care everyone.

Mid-Summer Reflection – Iris

I. An Unexpected Experience

Just recently, my friend went to her PCP (primary care provider) to ask about her three new spider bites and inability to sleep, even while taking Benadryl and ZzzQuil, which are allergy/anti-itch and sleep medications, respectively.

Instead of prescribing her another drug to try, this doctor was smart and sought more information. Her doctor told her that she may be a part of a small subgroup of people who respond to Benadryl with hyperactivity and suggested she get genotyped before taking any antipsychotics.

My friend took the initiative to read up on the gene the doc was talking about and found out that CYP2D6’s protein product metabolizes  ~25% of known drugs and “ultrarapid metabolizers” usually  extra active copies of the gene. She was probably one of them and needed more of the drug for it to work!

And to think my friend had initially thought all her hyperactivity and inability to sleep was due to her intake of diet coke! Her cousin later shared that she too has the same issue with Sudafed, a similar drug for allergy/pain, so this knowledge benefited not only her but also her family!

Can you imagine a world where knowing which drug to take to nix your case of allergies, eczema, depression, etc is more straightforward and efficient, less costly and frustrating?


This summer, I’m participating in the Duke-sponsored Summer Innovation Program as a continuation of the Duke Start-up Challenge to further develop Iris, a cloud-based, software-as-a-service platform that provides physicians with the clinical decision support to personalize patient care with pharmacogenetics.

I am very excited about where this project is headed because research and understanding of how drugs are metabolized is rapidly developing. With each day I am working on Iris, it seems like more and more groups of scientists, doctors, techies and policy makers across the country are collaborating to apply genetics at the point of patient care. This sort of awareness is largely beneficial for Iris as it’ll help propel healthcare policy to favor development of medical software faster than Anna and I had initially expected.

Anna is currently based in San Francisco and I in NYC. Our choice in cities reflect the communities we are trying to get more connected to and learn about. At the beginning of the summer, Anna and I had come up with a list of concerns and ideas we wanted to dig deeper into and wrap our mind around by the end of the summer. Many of these ideas came from our late night 2AM conversations during which we threw ideas back and forth. We had a lot of fun coming up with these ideas and some were a bit out-of-the-box. More times than not, we did not fully agree with each other or had to pause between ideas to communicate where our idea came from as we come from different backgrounds (medicine vs tech). I like that despite it being 2AM, Anna and I took the time to explain our thoughts to each other and were unabashed to divulge even the craziest or silliest ideas with eachother. Looking back, these ideas gave us a lot more to work off of and strengthened our understanding of eachother.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

1. At the beginning of the summer, while gathering research to hone in on our customer base and to develop our MVP, I learned that consumers find it “frustrating that these types of panels [that address genetic disposition to ADRs] have not been adopted more widely, since a lot of money is wasted on ineffective medications”.  Getting confirmation that we are heading the right direction is always a plus. In fact, as of now, the most actionable benefit from getting genotyped is in our direction– in estimating drug response and metabolism.

2. We have also been working to narrow down the customers we serve, at least for now as we are just starting off. We have been looking at various ways to divide our customers, with one factor being age. I’ve learned that with age, the number of epigenetic marks from environmental influences increase. These epigenetic marks modify gene activation and protein levels and composition. Simply put, optimal treatment strategies might differ between individual patients but also change for an individual patient over time. What this means for Iris is that, in addition to the patient genotype, if we were to look at an elderly patient’s profile, having access to biomarkers that characterize a patient at a given time might be optimal for treatment. It can also get a bit more complicated.

3. There’s no easy way to transmit data between providers as there are HIPPA concerns around moving data even between doctor’s offices, let alone from doctors to the cloud. Reading and signing off these waivers are no fun, especially for doctors because of liability issues and the time it takes away from seeing patients. While EMR vendors, the software makers who manage patient  health information, have not yet opened up to add-ons or apps, they are learning and reiterating their software to make it easier for transmission of patient data in much more innovative ways than the past.

4. Iris is working to offer doctors a way to keep track of medications when treating medically complex patients. Healthcare is an extremely local and fragmented industry. Local in that, policies vary across states and fragmented in that, patients see different providers and these providers don’t know eachother/talk to each other. Consolidation and keeping track of lengthy medication lists across specialties is an incredible concern for doctors at the moment.

5. User friendly design will continue to be our main selling point. I’ve learned that customers don’t know much about what they want. It’s hard for them to pinpoint what they want because they are not always up-to-date or knowledgeable about the forces that are changing trends in medicine. However, it is our job to keep thinking of ideas that they may or may not like and share it with them.

6. I’ve also been doing a lot of leisure reading on technology and keeping up with social media for doctors as well as those in healthcare tech. One of the books recommended to me by a doctor was The Creative Destruction of Medicine. I’ve learned a lot from this book, but this will have to be a topic for another blogpost!

With every journey, learning more about one-self parallels the importance of learning new knowledge. I’ll be starting first year at Duke School of Medicine in August. In addition to being super thrilled to have the opportunity to get backstage on what exactly Iris’ customer base want and need, I’ve unconsciously also been better able to see technology from the point of view of a doctor.

After signing some medical waivers and forms myself, getting check-ups, etc to prepare for my entrance into medical school, I’ve become more serious about my responsibility to patients as a future physician. I can understand and relate to why doctors can be so hesitant to try something different or to invest in another piece of technology, as computers and software with terrible design has been taking away their face-time with patients. The doctor-patient relationship is sacred to physicians and anybody developing technology in healthcare must understand that. My dream is that Iris can work towards changing doctors’ perception on technology and to change patient care through bridging medicine and innovative technologies!

P.S – I had a great time at the NYU-Yale accelerator program pitch-off with fellow New York City Dukies! The students’ passion and diligence reflected in the hard work they put into their start-up and their humorous personalities definitely got the judges during their pitch! Kudos to these young entrepreneurs! I even brought my younger sister along, who is interested in engineering and design, to inspire the next generation of thinkers!

Looking forward to dinner with fellow NYC SIP’ers this week!

Mid-Summer Updates

If you ever have a chance to travel, whether its by yourself or with close friends or family, take the opportunity to do so. And if you do travel with people, be sure to spend some time alone and lose yourself in the beauty of wherever you chose to visit. It is absolutely amazing how a fresh change in scenery can bring clarity to the mind.

I spent the past seven weeks traveling through Europe and working on my startup idea for the Duke Startup Challenge. Throughout my journey, I constantly pushed myself to escape my comfort zone and pick up bits and pieces of new languages to absorb myself into local culture. But, the most surprising aspect of my journey was how the people that I had encountered and the places that I had visited truly impacted the way that I thought about startups, entrepreneurship, and life both within and outside of the United States.

Before I left for Europe, my creative streak had hit a wall. However, I think the most memorable part of my trip throughout Europe was to have been able to enjoy countless sunrises in a foreign land and loose myself in an explosion of thoughts and ideas that led to the product I now seek to create.

I am back in San Francisco for the rest of my summer. It’s time to start hacking.


Midsummer Update From Stylehand

Hello everyone,

I’ve been making good progress this summer working on Stylehand, my company that helps men with fashion. Our iPhone app was released on the App Store in late May, and we’ve been getting some good feedback on it. Our initial hypothesis was that guys want to hear feedback on how they look. After talking with a lot of people, we now believe that guys would rather you tell them what to wear than criticizing what they have on. So, we’ve been working on a new design for our iPhone app, and we have an updated version in development. We’ve spent a good amount of time on the design and development, and we hope to have a new version out by the end of August.

We’ve also been busy with our marketing, making sure that we’re getting the right message out to people. Our social media page have been busy, and we’re working on a new landing page for our website. We’ve also been more active on Google+ and are engaging men’s fashion communities, which has gained us more followers.

I’ve realized this summer how important it is to have a great team. I’ve been working on a lot of the above stuff by myself, and it definitely takes a great team to make a company, not just one person. I’m trying to figure out my personal situation about where I’ll be working next year, so I’ve been hesitant towards building a team in Durham in case I move. Once I figure out where I’ll be, I’ll need to add more people in order to be successful.

I’ll spend the next couple weeks of the summer working on our new app version and staying active on our website and social media. I’ll look forward to updating you all on how things are going in a couple weeks!


Hello and Mid-Summer Update

It’s great to be a part of the Summer Innovation Program, and let me start by telling you a little bit about myself. My name is Brandon Ervin, and I am an MBA student at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Prior to coming down to Duke I spent four years working at Deloitte Consulting helping large companies effectively use technology to improve their businesses. I joined Deloitte right out of undergrad where I earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Ohio State University. I was born and raised in Ohio and will always be a die-hard Buckeyes fan. I’m also an avid reader of technology blogs, enjoy doing things outdoors, and love traveling with my wife.


NC IDEA provides grants to technology start-ups in North Carolina.

Now moving on to what I’ve been up to this summer. I am in the middle of a 10-month internship with NC IDEA and IDEA Fund Partners where I am a Young Entrepreneur in Residence (YEiR). NC IDEA is a non-profit that helps serve as a catalyst for young technology startups in North Carolina, mainly through providing grants of up to $50,000. NC IDEA holds two grant application cycles a year, one in the spring and one in the fall (the fall cycle will open soon). As an intern, my job is to help evaluate and perform due diligence on the startup applications as they are moved through the Pre-Proposal (125+ companies), Proposal (~25 companies), and the Finalist Presentations (~10 companies). It’s really great to get to see the amazing ideas and technologies that are being developed right here in North Carolina!


CellBreaker is a start-up based in Durham.

Over the summer portion of my internship (which is paid!) I have been working directly with a few startups that received grants during this year’s spring grant cycle. One of these companies is CellBreaker, where I am helping them develop and formalize their strategic plans. CellBreaker helps consumers get out of their cell phone contracts without having to pay early termination fees (ETFs). This is a great example of a company leveraging technology to solve a huge pain point for consumers. CellBreaker is using some of their grant money to streamline their web interface, automate operations, and market their redesign this fall. I can’t wait to see their revamp launch in October, and if you’re currently stuck in a cell phone contract and want to switch you should check them out!

The other exciting part of my internship is the work I get to do for IDEA Fund Partners. IDEA Fund Partners is a seed and early stage venture capital firm focused on investing in innovative technology companies in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. As an intern I’ve had the priviledge to see first-hand how the fund’s existing investments are managed, how new deals are sourced, and participate in potential investment due diligence. Working with the fund has been a great way to apply some of the business theory learned in school to a real world venture capital environment.

To wrap things up, my goals this summer were to work directly with at least one startup and gain valuable venture capital experience. I’m happy to say that so far this summer is more than meeting my goals, and the great thing is that I will continue to work with NC IDEA and IDEA Fund Partners through the end of this year!

If you would like to connect, I can be reached at brandon.ervin@fuqua.duke.edu.