emergent ventures cohort
Sebastian Garren, to found John Paul II Preparatory School’s South Campus in St. Louis, a hybrid on-line and in-person educational alternative for K-12, also stressing Western history and the classics.
John Durant, for career development and writing, and explorations into notions of angels.
Krishaan Khubchand, 20 years old, studying law at Birkbeck, to study mega-projects and capital allocation, he is also a Progress Studies fellow.
Vignan Velivela. He started as a robotics engineer at Cruise Automation, is a member of the Explorers Club (wiki, BBC) for his work on the lightest planetary rover at Carnegie Mellon, worked on a peer-to-peer lending startup in India that was acqui-hired by PayTm, went to college (BITS Pilani) in India studying EE and Economics, and now is co-founder of AtoB.
Wasteland Ventures (no web page), to support their efforts in talent search and development.
And two Emergent Ventures anti-Covid prizes have been awarded to:
Witold Wiecek, Bayesian statistician and consultant, for his work on the Bayesian modeling of the COVID-19 epidemic, and the design of an optimal vaccine portfolio, in cooperation with the Accelerating Health Technologies team.
Arthur W. Baker (no web page, and not this guy) for his efforts on incentive design for vaccines, in cooperation with the Accelerating Health Technologies team.
Here are previous winners of Emergent Ventures grants and prizes.
Praveen Mishra when he was 16 started the Power of Youth, a non-profit aimed at empowering rural students by giving them mentorship and conducting competitions to highlight their potential. He since has been building a ‘YouTube of e-commerce’. He is the founder of ByBuy, an omni-channel retail platform, and he received his EV grant to help with this launch.
Akash Bhatia and Puru Botla
Akash and Puru are the co-founders of Infinite Analytics (IA), a Boston-based company whose proprietary AI platform analyzes customers’ data. They received their EV grant to repurpose their platform for Covid containment to help governments and authorities in India with contact tracing and mobility analyses. They have since helped millions of users, and their Containment Zone analyses are becoming the bedrock for lockdown exit strategy in Mumbai and Pune. Here is a video about the project.
Mohammed Suhail Chinya Salimpasha
Suhail is a 19-year-old senior grade homeschooler. He dropped out of high school to work on finding new ways to quantify protein in serum applied on a faster diagnosis of malnutrition. This is his TedX talk on the project. He diverted his efforts towards Covid, to create India’s first multi-language Covid symptom checker, which was adopted by some local authorities before the Government mandated an alternative. He is currently working on solving problems in containerizing applications, Enterprise Cloud, low latency API communication, and 5G In Social Tech Democratization.
Manasseh John Wesley
Manasseh John Wesley is a 21-year-old from Hyderabad, India, studying engineering and technologies like embedded systems megatronics/machine learning/data science/digital communication systems. He is the founder of River Bend Data Solution, a data science company with health care applications. He received an EV grant to create a platform for hospitals to provide X-rays and CT scan images and to use AIML to identify at risk districts in Andhra Pradesh.
Vidya Mahambare and Sowmya Dhanaraj
Dr. Vidya Mahambare is a Professor of Economics at Great Lakes Institute of Management working in macroeconomics as well as cultural and social economics issues. Dr. Soumya Dhanaraj is an assistant professor of economics at the Madras School of Economics, working in Development Economics and Applied Microeconomics. Their grant is to support their work in labor market and migration distortions.
Onkar Singh Batra is a fourteen-year-old web developer from Jammu and Kashmir. He developed and published his first website at the age of seven and holds the record for the World’s Youngest Webmaster. Furthermore, his book ‘When the Time Stops’ made him hold the record for the record of ‘World’s Youngest Theoretical Author.’ Recently, responding to the Covid pandemic, he received his EV grant for the web applications named –‘COVID Care Jammu’ and ‘COVID Global Care’, which connects doctors with users and helps users do a free anonymous Covid Risk Assessment test. Onkar built his website keeping in mind slow internet speed and limited access. He has plans for many future projects, including working on a bio shield for 5G radiation technology.
Nilay Kulkarni is a 20-year old software developer and he previously worked on a project to prevent human stampedes at the world’s largest gathering – the Kumbh Mela. His project’s implementation at the 2015 edition of the event in Nashik, with over 30 million attendees, led to the first stampede-free Kumbh Mela in the city’s history. Nilay has also spoken at TEDx New York about the project. He has worked on assistive technology for people with ALS enabling them to control phones using their tongues. He received his EV grant for the tech development of the MahaKavach App, the official quarantine monitoring and contact tracing platform adopted by the state government of Maharashtra. So far, the platform has helped reduce the time needed for contact-tracing from 3-4 days to 25-30 minutes, and he is now working on open-sourcing the platform for greater impact.
Data Development Lab
Drs. Paul Novosad and Sam Asher are previous EV grantees for creating the SHRUG database at Data Development Lab. The SHRUG is an ultra-clean geocoded database describing hundreds of dimensions of socioeconomic status across 8,000 towns and 500,000 villages in India. Everything in the SHRUG is carefully linked, extensively vetted and documented, and ready for immediate application. In addition to continually expanding the SHRUG, they recently received another EV grant for a second platform oriented toward informing the COVID-19 response in India. This platform has a wealth of linked pandemic-related data (e.g. hospital capacity, health system use, agricultural prices) not available anywhere else and is directly feeding several COVID response research and policy teams.
Deepak VS is a 23-year-old Mechatronics Engineer from Bangalore, India and he has worked on traffic and communications projects. He also founded a college club called 42 Labs that eventually grew into a startup company called Tilt, a shared mobility platform designed for Indian campuses but now in corporate parks, colleges, townships, and cities across India. Working primarily with electric bikes, Tilt is partnering with companies to help provide alternate mobility solutions to people who typically use crowded and unsafe public transport.
Amit Varma and Vivek Kaul
Amit Varma is one of the most influential podcasters in India, and the winner of the Bastiat Prize in Journalism for his writing. He is the host of the iconic longform interview podcast The Seen and the Unseen, my chat with him on Stubborn Attachments is here and Alex’s appearances on the show here and here. Vivek Kaul is a prominent journalist and writer covering finance and economics. His most recent book, “Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How It Threatens the Indian Banking System” was released earlier this month.
Raman Bahl is a 2012 Teach For India Fellow. He has worked over the last decade in different capacities to teach students, train teachers, create curricula, and create systems of teaching and learning in the Indian education system. In the light of the pandemic, rural communities in India are not getting access to quality learning at home. In particular, students from poorer and marginalized groups cannot access to remote/online education launched by local schools because they lack internet access, televisions, and/or learning materials. Raman received his EV grant for creating a Voice-based Academic System for students in rural communities, to enable access to learning at home, through mobile phones. He is launching the system in Purkhas Rathi in Haryana and hopes to scale the system to more villages and states.
Vidyarthi Baddireddy, Utsav Bhattacharya and Kajal Malik are Indian entrepreneurs focused on the employability of graduating students in India. In 2017 they founded Reculta to digitize campus placements. In 2019, they launched PickMyWork, a platform for onboarding gig workers and getting them to complete tasks for client organizations through a pay-per-task model. In light of the manpower crisis during the Covid pandemic, especially on the frontlines, they want to enable matching of volunteers to emergency situations. They received their EV grant for adapting PickMyWork as a local volunteer response system to emergency situations like Covid by using the platform to source, train and deploy volunteers across various projects and locations.
Harsh Patel and Hiten Patel
Harsh Patel is an undergraduate student in electronics and communication engineering; his interests are in components, coding, and robotics. Hiten Patel is an electrical engineer interested in robotics, coding, and designing. They received their EV grant to develop robot prototypes that they call ‘E-Bot: Arogya Sahayak’ to potentially support hospitals, hotels, airports, workplaces, etc., to assist with basic tasks while maintaining social distancing.
Vinay Débrou studied computer science and is a self-taught data scientist interested in psychology, data science, and new applications of network science for collaboration-generating contexts. He has also built resources for aspiring location-independent free-agents including a curated resources library and a weekly newsletter. Vinay received his Emergent Ventures grant to accelerate his ongoing project to build a network visualization/mapping tool (v0.1 here) to catalyze cross-disciplinary expertise-sharing and collaboration in Yak Collective – an open, networked community of 300+ (and growing) independent creators, consultants, and researchers.
Those unfamiliar with Emergent Ventures can learn more here and here. EV India announcement here. To apply for EV India, use the EV application click the “Apply Now” button and select India from the “My Project Will Affect” drop-down menu.
If you are interested in supporting the India tranche of Emergent Ventures, please write to me or to Shruti at [email protected] I believe we are seeing a blossoming of talent from India comparable to that from Central Europe in the early part of the 20th century.
Mikko Packalen, with co-authors, fellow in Progress Studies, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Waterloo, to improve science, in particular to study superior methods for improving systems of science citation. Here is some previous MR coverage of his work.
Daniel Gallardo Albarrán, post doc at Wageningen University, Netherlands, for historical research on European and other policy responses to plagues.
Anna Steingold, Barnard College, general career support and to investigate small business successes and failure in New York City.
Fasih Zulfiqar, Karachi, Pakistan, home schooled and #1 economics student on the Pakistan national exam. For the study of economics in college and general career support.
Dylan White, living in Dubai, philosophy and tutor background, to start a podcast on travel and tourism during pandemic times.
Sarvasv Kulpati, Singapore, about to start UC Berkeley (if possible), interested in education and technology.
Bekhzod Khoshimov, Ph.d. candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin School of Business, for the study of entrepreneurship and to develop his podcast matters related to political economy and also Uzbekistan and Russia. Here is his interview with James Robinson.
I am happy to announce two further winners of the Emergent Ventures prizes to fight Covid-19.
The first is to Statnews.com for their excellent and intelligent reporting on public health, including the coronavirus, with the latter articles being ungated.
This is not only a prize for past achievement, but also resources to allow them to continue into the future. As most of you know, journalism is a highly precarious enterprise these days.
And to be clear, this is a one-time prize and it involves absolutely no editorial control or influence over what they publish.
Here is a recent NYT article on Statnews.com. the headline reads: “The Medical News Site that Saw the Coronavirus Coming Months Ago.”
The second winner is Tina White and Covid Watch, for their work on track and trace apps, you will note that Tina and her group were earlier winners of a (smaller) Emergent Ventures fellowship. This is an Early Response prize, for their critical and timely work to boost the quality of these apps and to make them more privacy-friendly and more palatable to civil liberties concerns. Here is some coverage:
Quick update on Curative, the COVID19 testing co – they are currently running 6% of entire US COVID19 testing capacity – from being a sepsis co six weeks ago
— Celine Halioua (@celinehalioua) May 15, 2020
Emergent Ventures is pleased to have been their very first funder, and to have consummated the entire grant process, including the wire of funds (at the time critical for materials purchase), in less than 24 hours.
There is another round of prize winners, and I am pleased and honored to announce them:
1. Petr Ludwig.
Petr has been instrumental in building out the #Masks4All movement, and in persuading individuals in the Czech Republic, and in turn the world, to wear masks. That already has saved numerous lives and made possible — whenever the time is right — an eventual reopening of economies. And I am pleased to see this movement is now having an impact in the United States.
Here is Petr on Twitter, here is the viral video he had a hand in creating and promoting, his work has been truly impressive, and I also would like to offer praise and recognition to all of the people who have worked with him.
The covid19india project is a website for tracking the progress of Covid-19 cases through India, and it is the result of a collaboration.
It is based on a large volunteer group that is rapidly aggregating and verifying patient-level data by crowdsourcing.They portray a website for tracking the progress of Covid-19 cases through India and open-sources all the (non-personally identifiable) data for researchers and analysts to consume. The data for the react based website and the cluster graph are a crowdsourced Google Sheet filled in by a large and hardworking Ops team at covid19india. They manually fill in each case, from various news sources, as soon as the case is reported. Top contributor amongst 100 odd other code contributors and the maintainer of the website is Jeremy Philemon, an undergraduate at SUNY Binghamton, majoring in Computer Science. Another interesting contribution is from Somesh Kar, a 15 year old high school student at Delhi Public School RK Puram, New Delhi. For the COVID-19 India tracker he worked on the code for the cluster graph. He is interested in computer science tech entrepreneurship and is a designer and developer in his free time. Somesh was joined in this effort by his brother, Sibesh Kar, a tech entrepreneur in New Delhi and the founder of MayaHQ.
3. Debes Christiansen, the head of department at the National Reference Laboratory for Fish and Animal Diseases in the capital, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.
Here is the story of Debes Christiansen. Here is one part:
A scientist who adapted his veterinary lab to test for disease among humans rather than salmon is being celebrated for helping the Faroe Islands avoid coronavirus deaths, where a larger proportion of the population has been tested than anywhere in the world.
Debes was prescient in understanding the import of testing, and also in realizing in January that he needed to move quickly.
Please note that I am trying to reach Debes Christiansen — can anyone please help me in this endeavor with an email?
Here is the list of the first cohort of winners, here is the original prize announcement. Most of the prize money still remains open to be won. It is worth noting that the winners so far are taking the money and plowing it back into their ongoing and still very valuable work.
Eibhlin Lim, Penang and University of Chicago.
“I interview founders from different industries and around the globe and share their origin stories to inspire the next generation of founders to reach for their own dreams. I previously shared these stories in Phoenix Newsletters, an online newsletter that organically grew to serve more than 7000 high school and university student subscribers primarily from Malaysia. In July 2018, I decided to self-publish and distribute a book, ‘The Phoenix Perspective’, which contains some of the most loved stories from Phoenix Newsletters, after learning that some of our biggest fans did not have constant access to the Internet and went through great lengths to read the stories. With the help of founders and organizations, I managed to bring this book to these youths and also 1000+ other youths from 20+ countries around the globe. I hope to be able to continue interviewing founders and share their origin stories, on a new website, to reach even more future founders from around the world.”
Carole Treston/Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
To jump-start a Covid-19 program to produce cheap informational videos and distribute them to their nurse network for better information and greater safety, including for patients.
“Right now, the main sources of data for Coronavirus are CSV files and websites which make the data fairly inaccessible to work with for developers. By giving easy access to this data more products can be built and more information can be shared. The API I built is an easily accessible, single source of Coronavirus data to enable developers to build new products based on COVID19 data. These products could be mobile applications, web applications and graphed data…The API exposes this data in JSON which is the easiest data format to work with for web and mobile developers. This in turn allows for quick integration in to any products. The API is also completely free to users.”
17 year old from Ontario, wishes to work in San Francisco, he does computational biology with possible application to Covid-19 as well, Twitter here. His Project De Novo uses molecular machine learning methods for novel small molecule discovery, and the grant will be used to scale up the cloud computing infrastructure and purchase chemical modelling software.
To build an on-line university to bring learning programs to the entire world, including to businesses but by no means only. His background is in philosophy and German thought, and now he is seeking to change the world.
There is also another winner, but the nature of that person’s job means that reporting must be postponed.
Here are previous Emergent Ventures winners, here is an early post on the philosophy of Emergent Ventures. You will note that the Covid-19-related work here is simply winning regular EV grants, these are not the prizes I outlined a short while ago. I expect more prize winners to be announced fairly soon.
Nicholas Whitaker of Brown, general career development grant in the area of Progress Studies.
Coleman Hughes, travel and career development grant.
Michael T. Foster, career development grant to study machine learning to predict which politicians will succeed and advance their careers.
John Strider, a Progress Studies grant on how to reinvent the integrated corporate research lab.
Dryden Brown, to help build institutions and a financial center in Ghana, through his company Bluebook Cities.
Adaobi Adibe, to restructure credentialing, and build infrastructure for a more meritocratic world, helping workers create property rights in the evaluation of their own talent.
Jassi Pannu, medical student at Stanford, to study best policy responses to pandemics.
Vasco Queirós, for his work on a Twitter browser app for superior threading and on-line communication.
M.B. Malabu, travel grant to come to the D.C. area for helping in setting up a market-oriented think tank in Nigeria.
Nolan Gray, urban planner from NYC, to be in residence at Mercatus and write a book on YIMBY, Against Zoning.
One other, not yet ready to be announced. But a good one.
Here are previous MR posts on Emergent Ventures.
Incoming Harvard Ph.D student in economics, for work on “What happens to the ability of firms to write contracts when courts are dysfunctional? [in India]” and related ideas. Twitter here.
17-year-old from Chennai, Twitter here.
Has a start-up, open source VR headset focused towards makers and web developers, based on the notion that the web is the proper platform for VR.
To start a non-profit to collect and spread data on recidivism and penal reform for state-level policy, Fast Company article on Recidiviz here.
GMU, Schar School, “How can we explain a specific AI outcome? What if the law mandates it?”, with an eye toward an eventual start-up.
Washington, D.C., for career development and to explore the marketing of neoliberal ideas through social media.
20-year-old infovore, career development grant, Twitter here.
A non-profit working with survivors of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, article here about their work.
If you have received an award lately, but are not listed, don’t worry — you’ll be in the sixth cohort. Here are the earlier cohorts of winners.
José Luis Ricón, for blogging and to develop further platforms for information dissemination.
Arun Johnson, high school student in the Bay Area, to advance his work in physics, chemistry, nuclear fusion, and for general career development.
Thomas McCarthy, undergraduate at Dublin, Trinity College, travel grant to the Bay Area, and for his work on nuclear fusion and running start-up programs to cultivate young Irish entrepreneurs.
Natalya Naumenko, economist, incoming faculty at George Mason University, to study the long-term impact of nuclear explosions on health, and also more broadly to study the history of health in the Soviet Union and afterwards.
Paul Novosad, with Sam Asher, assistant professor at Dartmouth, to enable the construction of a scalable platform for the integration and dissemination of socioeconomic data in India, ideally to cover every town and village, toward the end of informing actionable improvements.
Alexey Guzey, travel grant to the Bay Area, for blogging and internet writing, plus for working on systems for improving scientific patronage.
Dylan DelliSanti, to teach an economics class to prisoners, and also to explore how that activity might be done on a larger scale.
Neil Deshmukh, high school student in Pennsylvania, for general career support and also his work with apps to help Indian farmers identify crop disease and to help the blind interpret images.
Here is my previous post on the third cohort of winners, with links to the first and second cohorts. Here is my post on the underlying philosophy behind Emergent Ventures. You can apply here.
As always, note that the descriptions are mine and reflect my priorities, as the self-descriptions of the applicants may be broader or slightly different. Here goes:
Michelle Rorich, for her work in economic development and Africa, to be furthered by a bike trip Cairo to Capetown.
Jeffrey C. Huber, to write a book on tech and economic progress from a Christian point of view.
Mayowa Osibodu, building AI programs to preserve endangered languages.
David Forscey, travel grant to look into issues and careers surrounding protection against election fraud.
Jennifer Doleac, Texas A&M, to develop an evidence-based law and economics, crime and punishment podcast.
Fergus McCullough, University of St. Andrews, travel grant to help build a career in law/history/politics/public affairs.
Justin Zheng, a high school student working on biometrics for cryptocurrency.
Kyle Eschen, comedian and magician and entertainer, to work on an initiative for the concept of “steelmanning” arguments.
Here is the first cohort of winners, and here is the second cohort. Here is the underlying philosophy behind Emergent Ventures. Note by the way, if you received an award very recently, you have not been forgotten but rather will show up in the fourth cohort.
Here is the list of the second set of winners, in the order the grants were made, noting that the descriptions are mine not theirs:
Kelly Smith has a for-profit project to further extend a parent-run charter school system in Arizona, using Uber-like coordinating apps and “minimalist” OER methods.
Andrew L. Roberts, Northwestern University, a small grant to further his work on how sports relates to politics.
Stefan de Villiers, high school student, to create podcasts on the decisions of other high school students and how/why they become successful.
Brian Burns is working (with Samo Burja) on the history of mathematics and career networks, with special attention to the blossoming of innovation in 18th century Göttingen: “The secret to producing flourishing mathematical and scientific traditions may lie in a careful study of institutions. I will undertake this investigation and in the process uncover lost mathematical knowledge.” Gauss, Riemann, and Hilbert!
Can Olcer is one of the two entrepreneurs behind Kosmos School, a K-12 school that exists only in virtual reality, a for-profit enterprise with an emphasis on science education.
Anonymous, working on a board game for ten years, aimed at teaching basic economics, including supply and demand and the core ideas of Ronald Coase. The grant is for marketing the game.
Sophie Sandor is a 23-year-old Scottish film-maker making films with “noticeable themes [of] rational optimism, ambition and a rejection of the victimhood notion that millennials are prone to.” She is also interested in making documentaries in the education space.
Nicholas Dunk has a for-profit to bring voice recognition/machine transcription to the daily tasks of doctors. The goal is to solve paperwork problems, free up doctor time, encourage better record-keeping, and improve accuracy, all toward the end of higher quality and less expensive health care.
Here is the first round of winners of the new Emergent Ventures initiative at Mercatus, led by me. The list is ordered roughly in the order grants were made, and reflects no other prioritization. All project descriptions are mine alone and should not be considered literal attributions of intent to the project applicants. Here goes:
Anonymous grant for writing in Eastern Europe.
Pledged grant to San Francisco’s Topos House, conditional on finding a “social science prodigy” to live in the house for a while and interact with the other Topos fellows. Topos is a San Francisco house where several tech prodigies live and periodically seminars and larger group interactions are held there or connected to the house.
Travel grant made to 18-year-old economics prodigy, to travel to San Francisco to meet with members of the “rationality community.” The hope is to boost her career trajectory.
Grant to Harshita Arora to help her pursue work in brain science, including brain-computer interfaces to help disabled people manipulate and move objects. Harshita is a 17-year-old Indian prodigy, who first received attention for her programming work in the app space. Harshita made her bio and proposal public: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1j5Zf2RIiKVUUZzJb6qGQdx2WmG7q4NS9/view
Leonard Bogdonoff has a project to scrape Instagram and create a searchable concordance of street art around the world. His website is here and his blog is medium.com/@rememberlenny. One use of this project is to amplify the voice of “protest art” against the constraints of censorship from autocratic governments, but it is also a new way to glean usable information from Instagram.
Travel and conference grant to Juan Pablo Villarino, from Argentina, sometimes called “the world’s greatest hitchhiker.”
Ben Southwood, public intellectual from England, support for his writing and research on why progress in science has slowed down.
Eric Lofgren has worked at the Pentagon for seven years and now will spend a year at Mercatus/George Mason to develop the skills, including blogging and podcasting, to become the nation’s leading public intellectual on defense procurement.
A two-year pledge to Gaurav Venkataraman, at University College of London, to support his doctoral work on the idea of RNA-based memory. This research also has exciting implications for the design of artificial intelligence.
Joy Buchanan, economist, a grant to conduct research on why people become entrepreneurs and initiate start-ups, using the methods of experimental economics.
Michael Sonnenschein, Masters student at MIT in development economics (and a television screenwriter) a grant for research to reform and improve the Haitian lottery system, and turn it into a means to combat poverty.
Stefan Roots is writing and editing an on-line and also paper newspaper to cover local news in Chester, Pennsylvania, aimed at the African-American community.
Jeffrey Clemens, professor at UC San Diego, a grant to help him develop his on-line writing in economics.
Kelly Smith has a project to further extend and organize a parent-run charter school system in Arizona, Prenda, using Uber-like coordinating apps and “minimalist” educational methods.
David Perell, to encourage and support his work in podcasting and social media.
We are in the midst of processing several other awards as well, so do not worry if you are not yet mentioned.
I am delighted to welcome this very prestigious and accomplished “entering class” of Emergent Ventures fellows. If you are considering applying, please note that we are interested in other topics and methods as well.
Thanks to a special grant, there is now a devoted tranche of Emergent Ventures India. In the last two years, EV has received excellent applications related to India, both from residents in India and entrepreneurs and academics around the world working on India-related projects. This is not surprising because India has exceptional young talent with great ideas, but its traditional educational and philanthropic institutions have not always identified and nurtured these ideas and individuals. And given the size of the opportunity in India, a successful idea can change the lives of a very large number of people. In this sense, EV India is our attempt at a moonshot.
And a given dollar goes much further there!
EV India will provide grants and micro grants to jump-start high-reward ideas that advance prosperity, opportunity, liberty, and the well-being of Indians. We encourage unorthodox ideas and also requests that are too small to attract interest from the traditional models of funding and philanthropy.
Shruti Rajagopalan (also an Emergent Ventures Winner) joined Mercatus in the fall of 2019 as a senior research fellow studying Indian political economy and economic development. Shruti and I (Tyler) are already working together to evaluate applications for EV India. And note we are now working on some Covid-19-related grants!
To apply for EV India, use the EV application click the “Apply Now” button and select India from the “My Project Will Affect” drop-down menu.
Here is a list of past grants and fellowships made to India related projects:
Harshita Arora (first EV cohort), an 18-year-old Indian prodigy from Saharanpur, in addition to her work in the sciences, she recently co-founded AtoB, a startup building a sustainable transportation network for intercity commuters using buses.
Neil Deshmukh, high school student in Pennsylvania, for general career support and also to support his work on smartphone apps for helping Indian farmers identify, diagnose, and recommend treatment options for crop diseases (PlantumAI) and for helping the blind and visually impaired interpret images through sound (VocalEyes).
Paul Novosad, at Dartmouth, with Sam Asher, at Johns Hopkins, to enable the construction of a scalable platform for the integration and dissemination of socioeconomic data in India, ideally to cover every town and village, toward the end of informing actionable improvements. The Socioeconomic High-resolution Rural-Urban Geographic Dataset on India (SHRUG) is available here.
Tejas Subramaniam, a high schooler from Chennai, for prospective work on disseminating information about the prevalence of sexual violence, the harm it does, and effective tools to reduce its incidence. Tejas (with his team) won the World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) in August 2019.
Namrata Narain, Harvard Ph.D student in economics, for work on “What happens to the ability of firms to write contracts when courts are dysfunctional?”
Samarth Jajoo, a high school student in Ahmedabad, India, to assist in his purchase of study materials for math, computer science, and tutoring. He has developed a project called read.gift, which is a new book gifting project.
Himanshu Dhingra, an entrepreneurial Indian law student, to support his travel and internship at Project Arizona.
Ashish Kulkarni, an economics professor at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, to support a podcast on asynchronous mentoring.
Shrirang Karandikar, to support an Indian project to get the kits to measure and understand local pollution.
If you are interested in supporting the India tranche of Emergent Ventures, please write to me or to Shruti at [email protected]
I am happy to announce the first cohort of Emergent Ventures prize winners for their work fighting the coronavirus. Here is a repeat of the original prize announcement, and one week or so later I am delighted there are four strong winners, with likely some others on the way. Again, this part of Emergent Ventures comes to you courtesy of the Mercatus Center and George Mason University. Here is the list of winners:
Dr. Helen Y. Chu, an infectious disease expert in Seattle, knew that the United States did not have much time…
As luck would have it, Dr. Chu had a way to monitor the region. For months, as part of a research project into the flu, she and a team of researchers had been collecting nasal swabs from residents experiencing symptoms throughout the Puget Sound region.
To repurpose the tests for monitoring the coronavirus, they would need the support of state and federal officials. But nearly everywhere Dr. Chu turned, officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China, where the infection began.
By Feb. 25, Dr. Chu and her colleagues could not bear to wait any longer. They began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval.
What came back confirmed their worst fear. They quickly had a positive test from a local teenager with no recent travel history. The coronavirus had already established itself on American soil without anybody realizing it.
And to think Helen is only an assistant professor.
Data gathering and presentation prize: Avi Schiffmann
Here is a good write-up on Avi Schiffmann, excerpt:
A self-taught computer maven from Seattle, Avi Schiffmann uses web scraping technology to accurately report on developing pandemic, while fighting misinformation and panic.
Avi started doing this work in December, remarkable prescience, and he is only 17 years old. Here is a good interview with him:
I’d like to be the next Avi Schiffmann and make the next really big thing that will change everything.
Here is Avi’s website, ncov2019.live/data.
Prize for good policy thinking: The Imperial College researchers, led by Neil Ferguson, epidemiologist.
Neil and his team calculated numerically what the basic options and policy trade-offs were in the coronavirus space. Even those who disagree with parts of their model are using it as a basic framework for discussion. Here is their core paper.
The Financial Times referred to it as “The shocking coronavirus study that rocked the UK and US…Five charts highlight why Imperial College’s research radically changed government policy.”
The New York Times reported “White House Takes New Line After Dire Report on Death Toll.” Again, referring to the Imperial study.
Note that Neil is working on despite having coronavirus symptoms. His earlier actions were heroic too:
Ferguson has taken a lead, advising ministers and explaining his predictions in newspapers and on TV and radio, because he is that valuable thing, a good scientist who is also a good communicator.
He is a workaholic, according to his colleague Christl Donnelly, a professor of statistical epidemiology based at Oxford University most of the time, as well as at Imperial. “He works harder than anyone I have ever met,” she said. “He is simultaneously attending very large numbers of meetings while running the group from an organisational point of view and doing programming himself. Any one of those things could take somebody their full time.
“One of his friends said he should slow down – this is a marathon not a sprint. He said he is going to do the marathon at sprint speed. It is not just work ethic – it is also energy. He seems to be able to keep going. He must sleep a bit, but I think not much.”
Prize for rapid speedy response: Curative, Inc. (legal name Snap Genomics, based in Silicon Valley)
Originally a sepsis diagnostics company, they very rapidly repositioned their staff and laboratories to scale up COVID-19 testing. They also acted rapidly, early, and pro-actively to round up the necessary materials for such testing, and they are currently churning out a high number of usable test kits each day, with that number rising rapidly. The company is also working on identifying which are the individuals most like to spread the disease and getting them tested first. here is some of their progress from yesterday.
Testing and data are so important in this area.
General remarks and thanks: I wish to thank both the founding donor and all of you who have subsequently made very generous donations to this venture. If you are a person of means and in a position to make a donation to enable this work to go further, with more prizes and better funded prizes, please do email me.