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MCVSD Alum placed first among student competitors at this year’s New Business Model Competition

Congratulations to alum Yashwee Kothari, Class of 2018.  Mr. Hendricks, Academy for Computer and Information Science teacher said, “Yashwee was always a very driven student and always thought outside of the box.  She was incredibly instrumental in establishing our first Hackathon 6 years ago, which continues to be a success for all area students.  She constantly strives to break through that ceiling and is successful in doing so! I am so proud that she was my student for those 4 years.”


Computer Science Student Wins Business Challenge With Health Care App

Written by: Dean Mudgett

Published: Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Yashwee J. Kothari, an Albert Dorman Honors College and computer science student from Parsippany, placed first among student competitors at this year’s New Business Model Competition for her innovative work supporting patients living with traumatic brain injury (TBI). The annual competition was hosted virtually by NJIT’s New Jersey Innovation Acceleration Center Dec. 7, marking its twelfth year.

Consisting of two tracks, one for any current student of a northern New Jersey-area college or university, and a second for any northern New Jersey regional community member proposing to start a new business in New Jersey, entrepreneurs compete by pitching practical, innovative business ideas that are reviewed by a panel of judges. Winners vie for a summer fellowship and also receive a TOMMY Award from the Edison Innovation Foundation, an award given to candidates who have “invented innovative products or services, especially those who have used innovation to benefit humanity.” 

Kothari’s winning pitch was in support of her business, Releaf, a remote TBI symptom monitoring app for use by patients and their health care providers. The Mayo Clinic describes TBI as a brain injury that usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. An object that penetrates brain tissue, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull, also can cause traumatic brain injury. Mild TBI may affect one’s brain cells temporarily, while more serious cases can result in long-term complications or death. 

Each year, 2.8 million people in the U.S. suffer from TBI at a cost of $11.5 billion to the U.S. health care system. Proper treatment and symptom monitoring are essential to a patient’s recovery, yet only 41% of TBI patients receive an in-person follow-up during the first three months post-injury. 

Releaf works to help providers better connect with patients and track their TBI symptoms between in-person examinations. Using the app, health care providers can conduct real-time check-ins, helping deliver an enhanced level of interaction that can result in improved treatment outcomes. The interface has been designed specifically to accommodate the needs and possible limitations of TBI patients.

Winning this year’s New Business Model Competition is recognition of several years of hard work and dedicated effort on a concept Kothari had tinkered with at a high school hackathon. When she arrived at NJIT, Kothari knew she wanted to better understand TBI and focus on it as a research project and an entrepreneurial venture. As she pursued opportunities through the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps), the New Jersey Innovation Acceleration Center, Ying Wu College of Computing’s Social Interaction Lab, and NJIT’s VentureLink where she was in its first cohort of student entrepreneurs, Kothari brought Releaf with her, using each experience as a platform to improve and refine her work. 

“I cannot begin to express my thanks to the people who have given me guidance,” said Kothari. “Without my mentors: Dr. Yvette Wohn at the Social Interaction Lab, Will Lutz at VentureLink, and I-Corps mentor David Simpson, I would never have been able to bring Releaf to where it is today. They have given me so much of their time, invaluable expertise and the support I needed to take something that began as a simple idea and transform it into an important tool for people living with TBI.”

Although Kothari is eager to bring Releaf to market, there is more work she wants to do before that happens. Fortunately, winners of this year’s competition received NJIT Martin Tuchman School of Management Summer Lean Start-up Accelerator Innovation fellowships and a cash prize, made possible through the generosity of principal program sponsor Synchrony Bank. The fellowship and funds will give Kothari access to resources to continue her work, secure hosting for Releaf and ensure that the finished product is able to launch in the market and make an immediate impact.