Dallas-Based American Heart Association Awards $60K to Community Health Entrepreneurs

This year’s AHA Business Accelerator program winners received funding for their innovative business solutions to health inequities. Both aim to prevent unnecessary deaths caused by lack of funding, training, or resources in medical emergencies with their products.

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The Dallas-headquartered American Heart Association (AHA) recently hosted the finale of its fourth annual National EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator program virtually.

The American Heart Association launched the program in 2016 to inspire and equip entrepreneurs and organizations who are passionate about healthcare. It is designed to support community-centered business solutions to systemic public health issues that cause disparities—solutions that are both sustainable and scalable. Since its launch four years ago, the program has trained 38 social entrepreneurs and provided nearly $500K in grant funding, according to the AHA.

The program’s finalists complete an eight-week-long curriculum that covers design thinking, customer discovery, market positioning, brand development, and fundraising.

In the past, finalists have gone on to engineer a diabetes management device, design a program that creates STEM education out of dirt bike culture, and make affordable groceries accessible at metro stations, according to a statement.

This year, both winners were focused on improving the survival rates of people experiencing medical emergencies like cardiac arrest.

They were chosen by a panel of three business experts: Shelly Bell, founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures; Bryan Hollaway, principal consultant at Slalom Consulting Firm; and Matthew Knowles, founder and CEO of Music World Entertainment, who is well-known for managing the careers of his two daughters, Beyoncé and Solange.

The event was hosted by Sharon Epperson, CNBC Senior Personal Finance Correspondent at CNBC, and included an appearance from celebrity guest Daymond John, an entrepreneur, television personality, and “Shark” on Shark Tank.

Recognized as a first place finalist and $40,000 award winner was Abigail Kohler, a Brown University graduate and biomedical engineer, who co-founded ResusciTech.

The startup’s app, SMART Certification, is meant to train and empower people to perform CPR in instances of sudden cardiac arrest. Over 90 percent of those who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest do not survive the event, according to Kohler.

The app is designed to give users real-time feedback on their form, pressure, and speed while practicing performing Hands-Only CPR compression. In her presentation, Kohler explained that her goal is to get FDA approval for the tech to provide real-time feedback not only in training, but while actually performing CPR in a medical emergency.

Both the second place award of $15,000 and the fan favorite award of $5,000 went to Prathamesh Prabhudesai, an engineer and the co-founder of SafeBVM.

Prabhudesai’s experience with manually ventilating patients in India made it clear to him that health and cost issues were being caused by mistakes made by ventilator providers, a problem in the U.S. that is particularly prevalent in underfunded EMS and other medical agencies, according to the AHA.

SaveBVM aims to decrease the rate of these preventable errors with a new device that brings manual ventilators closer to mechanical ones in terms of efficacy and ease-of-use. According to Prabhudesai, SaveBVM’s goal is to reach the 200,000 EMS providers in the U.S. to share the benefits of this device.

“[Community change-makers] are sprinkled throughout every neighborhood,” said Epperson at the close of the event. “So we invite you to let these changemakers know who you are. Interact with them, embrace them in your networks.”

The application for the 2021 cycle of this Business Accelerator program is set to open in late spring, and the first faith-based Business Accelerator program is set to take place in June, according to Epperson.

The entire 2020 virtual finale can be watched here.

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