Student entrepreneurs earn national recognition

Ryan Young and Anders Rosen.

UB students Ryan Young (right) and Anders Rosen led startup Opollo Technologies to third place in the Blackstone LaunchPad National Pitch Competition (Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki)

Opollo Technologies placed third in this year’s Blackstone National Pitch Competition.

First-Time National Placement

For the first time, a UB team has placed in a national competition presented by Blackstone LaunchPad, a program designed to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

“We paused our class, and I shared my screen to the live Zoom,” recalls Hadar Borden, director of UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad program. “We got to celebrate with Ryan and Anders, which was really cool.”

MD/MBA student Ryan Young, founder and CEO of Opollo Technologies, and MBA student Anders Rosén, chief sales and marketing officer, made UB LaunchPad history and received $10,000 for placing third.

The national pitch competition is an annual event in which teams of student entrepreneurs battle for national recognition and a monetary prize. Although held virtually this year, more than 60 teams from across the U.S. and Ireland competed.

In the end, UB saw its team on the leaderboard, an accomplishment that came just 10 days before the fifth anniversary of the introduction of the LaunchPad program to the UB campus.

“Placing was really important, but it’s not just the placement that mattered,” says Rosén. “It’s also about how the community came around us, as well as the amount of support, guidance and advice we got from Hadar Borden, Alex Pelc (the UB LaunchPad’s senior program coordinator) and Dave Thiemecke (startup client manager for UB’s Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships).”

Adds Young: “No one circles the wagons better than the Buffalo startup community.”

This achievement demonstrates the resources and development that we’re offering to our teams, and is allowing them to be competitive at the higher level.”

-Hadar Borden, Blackstone LaunchPad

Opollo Technologies’ Ecosystem is a cloud-based, artificial intelligence platform that employs a wide range of health care data to optimize scheduling of operating rooms. It also provides a marketplace in which health insurance companies can obtain surgery slots for their customers that become available due to the increased efficiency in scheduling.

Opollo has been working with data from a large health care facility in Western New York. Initial results indicate its platform can save hospitals approximately $300 per surgery — $40 billion in potential savings industry-wide.

“What was coming out of (the facility’s) electronic medical record system was accurate 30% of the time, within plus or minus 10 minutes,” says Young. “That’s really bad. They can’t really plan their day at all. We want to give them a realistic estimate as to how long (surgeries) are going to take to prevent delays or fit in other surgeries.”

While Young has been affiliated with the LaunchPad program since October 2019, he’s been working on Opollo since the previous January.

“People say I’m insane for doing this,” he says. “But I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and start working on Opollo around 5:30 a.m. before class, and then after homework in the evenings. I go to bed around 11 p.m. and repeat that seven days a week.”

A schedule like Young’s is difficult to maintain, especially without help. That’s where Rosén came into the picture. Young had the idea for Opollo and an algorithm built, but was having trouble navigating the marketing side of entrepreneurship.

“I was a bit too technical and it was sometimes hard to understand,” he says. “And my presentation slides looked like garbage.”

Young says Rosén has one of the best presentation styles he has ever seen, which made the decision to bring him on board a no-brainer.

While Rosén had worked in communications and marketing in higher education in Washington, D.C. for four and a half years, he doesn’t attribute his success in marketing solely to his professional experience.

“I’m always proud to talk about my theater background,” he says. “That’s where I gained communication skills. It’s storytelling, and I think that when it comes to starting a new business, telling the right story is one of the key aspects to bringing in your audience.”

Opollo’s accomplishment is something Borden wants to build on within UB’s LaunchPad program.

“This achievement demonstrates the resources and devlopment that we’re offering to our teams, and is allowing them to be competitive at the higher level,” she says. “Students compete against institutions like NYU, UCLA and Texas A&M. Our students are on par with them, which shows we are doing the right things.”

More success for UB's LaunchPad program

“Its support of projects dealing with immigration, labor, medicine and the history of the counterculture aligns with the foundation’s belief that artists are key contributors to public discourse and bring nuanced and unexpected perspectives to bear on issues of national interest,” Bers says.

The exhibitions reflect what Park says is the galleries’ newly articulated mission to advance art as inquiry and provide artists an open-ended, experimental context in which their nascent ideas are supported with research tools and expert guidance from the university community. The aim, she says, is to empower artists to take risks — in line with the spirit of the Warhol foundation’s mission to advance visual art and foster innovative artistic expression.

“This is fantastic news for UB Art Galleries,” says Director Robert Scalise. “As we begin to emerge from the challenges that 2020 brought, this support comes at a crucial time. It will not only strengthen our ability to empower artists to explore new projects at UB, but also aid in providing a forum for conversation and collaboration across disciplines within the university and the greater Western New York community.”

The first round of exhibitions funded by the grant will open in fall 2021.

Published March 30, 2021