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Indian American Samir Rahi’s safer allergy test wins $15,000 for best business idea

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The idea was conceived by Rahi’s teammate Benjamin Rubanoy.

Samir Rahi, a freshman whose team placed first in the competition, and Olia Bosovik, assistant director of the IIE's Venture Development Center, talk with Madison Pedigo, IIE academic director (Image Courtesy: utdallas.edu)
Samir Rahi, freshman whose team placed first in the competition, and Olia Bosovik, assistant director of the IIE’s Venture Development Center, talk with Madison Pedigo, IIE academic director (Image Courtesy: utdallas.edu)

Indian American student Samir Rahi, along with his teammate Benjamin Rubanoy, has won $15,000 for a business concept they call Skin Aware by finishing first at the finals of UT Dallas Business Idea Competition.

Samir Rahi and Rubanov, both freshmen at University of Texas, prevailed over six teams at the 10th annual contest organized by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at the Naveen Jindal School of Management.

Samir Rahi, a computer engineering student from Texas’s Sugar Land, is National Merit commended student and a National AP Scholar with distinction. He is the founder of LiveSmart Initiative Inc., a non-profit that coached over 5,000 students in interpersonal and critical thinking; and Blueprynt, a social entrepreneurship venture that helps students write more effective college applications.

According to the UTD news release, their product detects allergic reactions using much smaller doses of allergens than other tests currently on the market.

The idea was conceived by Rubanoy after watching his younger brother suffer from an aphylactic shock while undergoing an allergy skin test. He was then determined to develop a safer, more-effective test.

Based on patent-pending technology developed by Dr. Walter Voit at the UT Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute, Skin Aware employs nanoliter-size doses. Other tests involve allergens measured in milliliters – quantities much higher than those in naturally occurring exposures. The lower dose reduces the risk of serious side effects such as the shock Rubanov’s brother experienced, the news release added.

The judging panel of the competition included three UT Dallas alumni – 2016 UT Dallas Distinguished Alumni Award recipient and Axxxess president and CEO John Olajide, owner/operator of Peticolas’ Brewing Company Michael Peticolas, Freshbenies co-founder and COO Heidi Rasmussen. Heidi’s husband Reid Rasmussen, co-founder and CEO of Freshbenies, and Snappy Salads founder and CEO Chris Dalhander rounded the panel.

“It was more about what products best told us who their target market was,” Heidi Rassmusen said. “The winners best proved the point that it was a viable product for that market and that they could access that market through a marketing plan of some sort. It was less about technology and more about good old-fashioned business knowledge.”

Second place went to Unibees, an app that has been used by UT Dallas students for the past several months to find free food at campus events. Jindal School’s Graduate students Abinav Varma Kalidinadi, Sanjay Kurani and Chandra Kiran Achanta collected the $5,000 second-place prize.

Jindal School graduate students Tom Hauser and Brandon Burgess took third place and $2,500 in prize money for Geekstyr, a dating/community platform that caters to geeks and nerds.



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