April 23, 2014

Midland Daily News

Midland native David Shull and his Divinare teammates failed to take home any top prizes at the 2014 CMU New Venture Competition. But the group may have set themselves up for future success.

The recent competition brought 23 teams together from Michigan Tech University and Central Michigan University to the CMU campus to present venture ideas or ideas that are in the early stage of launch.

Divinare, composed of six Tech students, is a seed stage technology startup described as a revolution in health maintenance for American business.

“Right now companies all over the world are trying to reduce health care costs,” said Shull, a 2010 graduate of Midland High. “Our current model of health care simply isn’t sustainable. Divinare focuses on preventing high cost chronic disease by understanding large sets of data and translating that into recommendations that drive healthy behaviors.”

Currently, there are lots of applications to collect health care data.

“Fitbit will tell you how many steps you’ve taken, the SleepCycle app will tell you how ‘well’ you slept last night in the form of a percentage,” Shull said.

But, the question is, “How do you apply that data?”

“Most of the time users don’t know what to do with that information,” said Shull. “Our application goes beyond that data to make a recommendation on how to improve your exercise or your sleep. Much like Google uses your online data to understand what ads are best for you — we want to understand your physiologic data to understand how we can help you improve your health. There are lots of possibilities here. Corporate wellness companies for example are very interested in the possibility of verifying their program’s effectiveness using the data and metrics we’re able to collect and understand.”

The team didn’t win any of the monetary awards, which totaled $75,000 with a top award of $30,000 for the Best Overall Venture.

“We won some in-kind services from the (CMU Research Corp.), but none of the big prizes we were hoping for,” said Shull, who is pursuing a dual major in computer engineering and computer science.

The lack of financial success hasn’t deterred the team.

“We made some incredible connections at the competition,” he said. “We’ve been connected to Michigan resources as a result of the contest and also had the opportunity to talk to several players in this space. We got some incredible feedback and are even more excited about the idea now than when we went down there. We even had the chance to talk to who we thought was our biggest competitor — and they told us we were doing exactly the right thing and filling a need. So that was cool.”

Plus, the team gained valuable insight into the business side.

“We learned that the competition is more focused on bringing a product to market as quickly as possible,” said Shull. “So Divinare wasn’t the best fit for the competition. The contest did force us to think about some hard problems and really flush out our business plan — which was a great experience.”

Even the name of the team looks to the future.

“Divinare is Latin to foresee,” said Shull. “In our space of wellness and preventive health care we believe that many of the problems in health care can be foreseen using data users are already collecting.”

For more information on Divinare, visit Facebook at fb.com/divinarehealth or divinarehealth.com

Anyone wishing to invest in the project may visit Superiorideas.org