Five promising startups from the Harvard Innovation Lab’s Demo Day

Divya Dhar of Seratis, a startup developing a new communication tool for healthcare providers. Photo by Scott Kirsner / Beta Boston.
Divya Dhar of Seratis, a startup developing a new communication tool for healthcare providers. Photo by Scott Kirsner / Beta Boston.

The Harvard Innovation Lab in Allston has been home to 84 startups run by students and recent grads this summer; they call it the Venture Incubation Program. And ten of the companies that have been making the most progress (while the rest of us have been working on our tans) gave short demos yesterday afternoon. These were the five that struck me as worth having on your radar screen…

• Altadu Biosciences is working on a $99 diagnostic test that can help doctors determine what drug regimen will be most effective for a person suffering from HIV. They can use existing qPCR machines, which amplify DNA, and deliver results in about five hours. The company won the grand prize at a Health & Life Sciences Challenge at Harvard earlier this year, and plans to start pilot tests soon in Botswana and South Africa.

• Experfy has already built an online marketplace of 550 data scientists willing to take on freelance projects. Today’s options for finding someone to handle an project that involves slicing, dicing, and analyzing a large data set involves either searching on LinkedIn, using a “generic” freelance marketplace like oDesk or Elance, or hiring a consulting firm. Experfy makes available MIT professors and former Google employees willing to do some work on the side, at hourly rates, and handles payment.

villy• Villy wants to help you find and book the best hotels to stay in when you travel, based on your interests: Is shopping your top priority, or visiting museums? The site is already live, but they’ll have ten cities up by next month, and they’re working with the organizers of big conferences to promote Villy to their attendees.

• LifeGuides is building a digital self-help library for millennials. The content is created by “been there, done that” mentors, and tackles questions like “Should I learn to code?”, “Should I get an MBA?”, or “Should I stay in the military or get out?”

• Seratis co-founder Divya Dhar gave the best presentation of the afternoon, arguing that it’s time to give doctors a more sophisticated communication tool than a pager. The company is developing a secure and HIPAA-compliant mobile app that will let doctors and nurses communicate more easily with their colleagues who on a particular patient’s care team, and manage hand-offs when one shift ends and another begins. (BetaBoston’s Kyle Alspach wrote about the company back in June.) Seratis has been through the Dreamit Health accelerator program, won $850,000 from Verizon, and is currently conducting several pilots in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Brazil.

The five other startups that presented were YouFly (drone retailer and manufacturer), Agora (online town hall), CommonLit (online resource for middle school teachers to help improve students’ reading proficiency), Potluck Energy (community solar), and Six Foods, which closed the afternoon with a rap about the merits of using insect protein in food. (I’m sure at least a couple of them will make me regret not putting them on my “top 5” list…)

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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