SteadiSpoon founder, Indian American Raleigh Dewan among winners of TiE University Global Pitch Competition

Ritu Jha–

Indian American Raleigh Dewan, founder of SteadiSpoon, was declared one of the winners of the fifth TiE University Global Pitch Competition held parallelly with The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) TiEcon 2023 last month.

SteadiSpoon is an affordable, self-stabilizing eating device that empowers people suffering from Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases regain agency, autonomy, and dignity.

Dewan told indica the reason behind SteadiSpoon is his grandmother. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and he had witnessed the debilitating hand tremors that she has experienced.

TIE University is an initiative of TIE Global, and aims to foster entrepreneurship among college and university students. Ravi Puli, founder and chair of the Washington DC TiE chapter and co-chair of the global program on TiE University, told indica ,”TiE University Global Pitch Competition has grown over several hundred times in terms of participation from students, colleges and prize money and access to investors.”

Most of the competitors are from graduate school, he said, adding that there were close to 100 this time. “All three winners were from the health sector,” Puli said.

Puli said that since several TiE members are investors, they engage with ideas to invest and mentor as needed.

SteadiSpoon won the third place and $10,000, while Washington, DC-based Hubly Surgical won the top prize of $50,000. Pune, India-based Innergize won second place and $25,000.

The 23-year-old Dewan – whose father is of Indian origin and mother is a White American from Arkansas – told indica, “SteadiSpoon is an affordable, self-stabilizing, assisted eating device for people who suffer from debilitating hand tremors, whether from Parkinson’s, Cital tremor, or body dementia. Unfortunately, there are so many diseases that steal the autonomy, and dignity of people.”

The Dewan family with their grandmother

He added, “SteadiSpoon started because my grandmother had Parkinson’s disease. She cooked the most extravagant feast that brought our entire family together. After Parkinson’s, she couldn’t cook anymore. Ahe couldn’t even eat; she was too embarrassed to eat with us, her own family. It devastated us because, you know, in Indian culture, and in almost every culture, meal-time is such an important thing, and when you can’t do it anymore, it’s very ostracizing.”

This experience got Dewan thinking. He found out that there were over 140 million people globally are afflicted with debilitating hand tremors; 70 million in the US alone. Though Parkinson’s is quite well known, there are tons of other diseases that weren’t as well known, but still cause the debilitating hand tremors.

“I’m the youngest of three brothers, and we’re all very competitive, so I thought, well, how could I be the best grandson,” he said. “I just wanted to bring her (grandmother) back to our family dinner table.”

Dewan began SteadiSpoon in his freshman year in college, working on prototypes. The company was incorporated two years ago once they started getting funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“We got the NIH’s Biomedical Engineering Debut award this past year for our design,” he said. “Our human trials achieved 95% efficacy. SteadiSpoon does not have motors, sensors, or chips, it’s entirely mechanical, so it’s very scalable.”

He said SteadiSpoon is looking at markets abroad. “We’ve developing markets in other countries, whether it’s in Latin America or in Africa, where it’s a lot harder to get electronic components that do not have steady supply chains. Right now, we’re in Garland, Texas. We’re looking to manufacture across the border in Mexico. Because this is a mechanical device, the manufacturing is very affordable .” (See how it works)

Dewan said the next step for SteadiSpoon is FDA clearance, “because that does make it easy for us to get medical insurance reimbursement, which will make it more accessible to consumers. We’re also working on B2B such as retirement homes, care facilities and re-up hospitals. So far, we have been able to save 15 hours of labor per patient per week.”

According to him, 100 care centers across the US and Canada have pre-ordered the device. More than 1,000 people are on the waiting list. “We’ve raised over $100,000 so far, which includes NIH grants, other research fellowships, and pitch competitions, all non-dilutive.”

He says his biggest regret is that his grandmother passed away before he could finish building the device. “There was were times when I had thought of abandoning the project,” he said.

“I didn’t start this as a business opportunity. I had one target customer, and she passed away two years ago. That was the point when I actually switched from a motorized design to a mechanical one because she was a public school teacher for over 40 years. I wanted to make sure that I could be able to help people no matter where they were in the world, no matter their economic situation, and one that would be able to people,” Dewan said.

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