Big Idea Competition Winners: Where Are They Now?

By Melissa Graham  |  November 9, 2021

Each year, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UT Dallas helps students and alumni put their self-starter skills to the test through the Big Idea Competition. This annual event gives teams or individuals the chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win cash and scholarship awards. In celebration of this year’s competition on Nov. 9, we tracked down past winners to see what paths they’ve taken on their entrepreneurial journeys.

Hebah Abdallah BS’19 was part of a team that won the Student Pitch in the 2020 competition. Abdallah’s group pitched their company Galucomedi, which at the time was developing a drainage device to treat glaucoma by reducing eye pressure. Since the competition, Abdallah has continued work on the device, and Glaucomedi is currently in the licensing and registration process to produce an umbrella of ophthalmic products. Abdallah is also working on her master’s degree in biomedical engineering from UT Dallas.

In the first year of the Alumni Pitch Track, Mouna Taroua BS’17 won the category for Lazarus 3D, a company that creates replicas of organs from MRI/CT scan data so that doctors can perform “dry runs” before procedures. Since then, Taroua pitched Lazarus 3D to Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful) at the Shark Pitch Start Engine

As a graduate student studying computer science, Anish Hegde MS’20 took first place in the 2019 Big Idea Competition for Resume Puppy, a cloud-based service that helps job applicants improve their odds at landing a job through resume analysis, templates and keyword identification. Hedge is currently a software engineer at Grammarly in San Francisco, where he is working to build the company’s Android keyboard. Resume Puppy is still up and running, and has been used by more than 100 students from universities around the world.

In the competition’s 12th year, Lewis Zhang BA’16, Marwan Kodeih BS’18 and Brian Hoang BS’18 took the top prize of $25,000 for SurviVR, a virtual reality tool that trains police officers. This past August, SurviVR was acquired by InVeris Training Solutions. Zhang currently works in the Network Operations Center at HealthEquity in Plano, while Hoang is the director of virtual reality and augmented reality at InVeris Training Solutions. Kodeih is currently the senior product lead of virtual and augmented reality at InVeris.

In 2017, Veena Somareddy MA’14 won the Big Idea Competition for the pitch of Neuro Rehab VR, a company that develops virtual reality games for patients recovering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases. Since then, Somareddy has won and participated in several other pitch competitions, including the 2021 TiE Dallas Women’s pitch competition. Since its inception, Neuro Rehab VR has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, CNBC and Dallas Innovates.

Relevance: Alumni, Innovation