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For University of Charleston Pharmacy student Andrew Van Deusen, a vision for helping people through technology started by doing what he was already passionate about – just helping people.
“I have the opportunity to tutor a lot of students through Rho Chi, an academic honor society for the top academic students in each university’s pharmacy school, “said Van Deusen. “It seemed to me that the best way to help people study has been to verbally walk through the material, so I wanted to create a voice activated, 100% accurate study buddy.”
Armed with interests in both people and innovative voice technologies, Van Deusen set out to create a voice activated technology company that would specialize in education based programming to be utilized through the Amazon ECHO, a voice-controlled speaker that can perform more than 3,000 skills. Using this knowledge he built Studylex, his study assistance application.
“I actually began this company last summer but I needed a starting point to utilize it. Apple products use the SIRI voice function, but it isn’t customizable,” said Van Deusen. “The ECHO allows developers to create applications for it – so with it I had found my path.”
When Van Deusen learned about the WV Business Plan Competition, and UC’s intention to participate, the Ohio native saw another opportunity to showcase his idea – with the initial opportunity having been this past summer in the famous Silicon Valley, an area on the West Coast known for its technological prowess.
“This summer my sister and I entered a global technology competition with over 1,000 others teams,” said Van Deusen. “With an emphasis on voice interactive technology we were one of 53 winners. From there we were one of 14 teams chosen to compete in the “Silicon Valley Week” event, a week-long event where you hone your skills and pitch your product in front of a panel of investors. Think Shark Tank.”
Not only was the experience an invaluable one for Van Deusen, it was also a financially rewarding one. The folks at Amazon, the company responsible for the production of the ECHO, gave him and his team an offer to invest in the idea. He now has financial backing to make his company even more of a reality.
Aside from all that, he’s also one of the top students in his class at the UC School of Pharmacy.
“There’s more to pharmacy school than I ever dreamed, and it ties right in with my entrepreneurial interests,” said Van Deusen. “There is an industrial side to the profession that would allow me to work on technology-focused initiatives rather than in retail pharmacy filling prescriptions. Honestly, though, I just want to spend my time caring for others and creating things that will ultimately help them.”
It’s say to safe that shouldn’t be a problem for Andrew.