Empowerment, friendship and encouragement. Those were the three biggest upsides for 2015 University Startup World Cup winner, Caleb Kumar in the process of building his own company. Factors that also helped the young entrepreneur through the biggest trauma of his life.
“The greatest personal ‘up’ of this startup was the boost it gave to my confidence and mental health. Winning the Grand Award at the University Startup World Cup changed my life.”
As the youngest college graduate in Minnesota history Caleb earned an associate’s degree in mathematics, just 13 years old. But, shortly after graduating Caleb had his life turned upside down, when he had a very serious traumatic brain injury that paralyzed nearly 50 % of his body. Despite years of rehabilitation there are still some residual deficits and because of his injury he now also had to battle anxiety.
In spite of those years of ordeal, in 2013 Caleb Kumar was accepted into Stanford University at the age of 17. The time at Stanford University became revolutionary for him as he started developing his own software. Out of his Stanford dorm room Caleb started building AI software that would help clinicians diagnosing patients; “Because of my own health challenge, I was empowered to bring timely diagnosis to patients and limit cost, so that additional financial burdens are not created for patients. Satisfying the need of patients was a major driving factor for me”, Caleb explains.
In establishing his own company Caleb joined forces with his now close friend Aslan Maleki, whom he met through Peter Theil’s ‘20under20’, where they were both semifinalists. Together the two young entrepreneurs would develop the company VesaliusMed including AI-powered software and a microscope to provide a non-invasive and accurate screening workflow for detecting cell-based diseases such as cancer.
When Caleb and Aslan reached Phase 2 of FDA trials they met a need for funding for patents and clinical testing and decided to apply for the 2015 University Startup World Cup (USWC). The two founders experienced a great amount of support from the international biotech industry and experts in their field. “I fondly remember my visit to Novo Nordisk headquarters. It was a pleasure to meet innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world – many of whom I still keep in touch with”, Caleb remembers. During the USWC Caleb and Aslan were also molded from novice speakers to competent orators. A talent that meant a lot to them as they learned how to effectively communicate the value proposition of their company.
Finally, the founders decided that bigger players in the AI medical industry were better equipped to develop a product in this category, and VesaliusMed was acquired in 2021. “To achieve our end goal of getting the product into the market and saving lives, it would be better for us to transfer our knowledge and technical findings to a bigger company that would be able to compete and incorporate our technology in standard care around the world”, Caleb explains.
Read more about the University Startup World Cup