Written by Eduardo (Mexico, Class of 2020)
In July 2019, I participated in LaunchX— an entrepreneurship program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I was looking for a hands-on and cooperative entrepreneurial environment to challenge myself. LaunchX supports high school students through the process of launching an actual startup. Throughout the program, I strengthened my knowledge of sales, marketing, and Design Innovation (DI).
During the DI sessions, I quickly noticed that I had an advantage over my peers thanks to the training I have received in UWC ISAK Japan. I noticed that many others got attached to their ideas instead of embracing the iterative process that DI preaches. I could tell that my peers cringed after every little mistake. This is a common reaction among high achieving students around the world since traditional schooling trains us to dread mistakes instead of evaluating the process and learn from failure. We are not taught how to bounce back from failures; instead, we are made to believe that mistakes are for losers. This causes many emotional and psychological problems among the younger generations when in reality, the most innovative individuals are the ones who fail sooner and faster— something that I also learned at ISAK.
After many lectures and workshops, I identified a need among patients who struggle with kidney failure. Almost 30 million people in America alone struggle with kidney failure. I know this is a widespread problem even in Mexico as my uncle suffers from the same condition. These patients have to attach a catheter (a narrow tube) to their kidneys and connect it to a urine drainage bag. This limits the mobility of the patients and interferes with their rest. In the case the bag trespasses a certain threshold and the urine goes back to the patient’s kidneys, he/she could die. Also, the patient has to check three to four times their bag to avoid an overflow. I hoped to decrease this anxiety.
I invented a reusable system that detects the level of urine in the bag without touching the fluid and notifies the patient when it is time to empty the bag through a vibrating bracelet. This is a more affordable and less intrusive solution compared to the already existing ones. I contacted nearly 40 kidney failure patients to validate my concepts and to reaffirm whether or not they need my product. Even though a few patients were reluctant to share their experiences, the great majority thought it was a great idea. After receiving great feedback, I modified my prototype to match the patients’ needs. The first four trials were a total failure. The code had too many bugs and the physical components did not function properly. My drive to provide a solution to the patients’ problems was great than the present obstacles. I checked the circuits and the code from top to bottom. After several attempts, I made it work.
On the last day of the program, I presented my final product in front of a panel of MIT entrepreneurs. I was granted the award of “Most Successful Pivot”. I understood that in entrepreneurship the obstacle in my path can become the path; within every problem, there is an opportunity to improve other people’s conditions. I would invite all students on campus to apply for this program to understand entrepreneurship at a deeper level and engage with like-minded teens.