2022 MICA UP/Start Venture Competition Finalists Announced

MICA is pleased to announce this year’s UP/Start Venture Competition finalists, who were chosen after the Round 1 Virtual 'Pop Up and Pitch' event on November 19.

Winners, including the People's Choice Award, will be chosen during the April 12 finale from 6-8 p.m. Register for the finale here.

This year’s finalists include:

Blvck Door
Iman Carr ’22 (Design Leadership MA/MBA)

Blvck Door is an online platform that bridges the gap between creatives of color and employers who see the benefits of an equitable, diversified workforce.


Compressent Co.— Designing for Neurodiversity

Herschel Ruben ’21 (Product Design BFA)

There is an estimated global population of 70 million people on the autism spectrum—80% of whom are unemployed or severely underemployed. People on the spectrum are hypersensitive to light, taste, sound, smell and touch. For them, even the smallest stimuli can feel overwhelming. When their nervous systems get overloaded, it can cause a fight or flight response that disrupts workflow. Applying pressure on certain points in the nervous system, such as outer thighs and shoulders, can calm or prevent sensory overload. The Compressent Co. Desk Chair is for people who experience overstimulation of the nervous system and need a calming mechanism to be productive in their everyday lives. Deep pressure touch, particularly when it can be self-controlled with Compressent Co., is a means of alleviating the need to calm down by disconnecting. Finding a way for this to be applied in everyday life led to designing the Compressent Desk Chair, a product that can be used—without stigma—in any work environment.

Compressent Co. was the winner of the $500 People's Choice Award.


Emma Koramshahi ’22 (Design Leadership MA/MBA) and Julia Breskin ’22 (Design Leadership MA/MBA)

Let Convo be your team’s newest advocate for compassion.

Convo is a framework for virtual team meetings and a data visualization application. Through our four-step process, Convo lowers social barriers in the virtual work environment and normalizes emotional openness and self-awareness between teammates and leadership. Convo offers real-time feedback to employees about how their actions and leadership styles are perceived by their team. In this way, Convo helps businesses build pathways for inclusion, diversity, and wellness. Let Convo be your team’s newest advocate for compassion.

The team at Convo has the spark and the drive. We want UP/Start to be the catalyst to realizing our dream of self-reflective conversation in a virtual environment.

Core Immersive Labs 

Paolo Narciso ’22 (Data Analytics & Visualization MPS)

​​The metaverse is becoming a reality with over $3 Trillion dollars being invested to build what many are calling the next generation of the Internet. The opportunity is expected to double in the next five years. Just like the Web was not just about websites, and search engines, the metaverse is not just about Mixed Reality. It fundamentally can change commerce, economies, and human interaction. But, just like the Web, the builders and architects are generally from the privileged populations, leaving out underserved communities and the voices/ideas by gender, race, age, and ethnicity.  Our mission is to provide the training, tools, and opportunities for these underserved populations around the world to be entrepreneurs, builders, and architects of the metaverse.  The training will be free to the participants. The company will generate revenue as a global innovation lab, and through job placement services. 

Knock the Block

Book Karnjanakit ’21 (Illustration Practice MFA)

Dealing with art blocks isn’t easy. “Knock the Block” is here to help.

Most artists and creative people, regardless of experience level, have experienced periods of art block: the state of not being able to come up with ideas or feeling stuck. This often leads to disappointment or doubt, which just creates more blocks. The causes of a block could range from being mentally and physically tired from constantly creating, to just the opposite when one hasn’t created anything for a while. 

“Knock the Block'' is a gentle deck of creative and self-care card prompts to help people overcome this universal artistic challenge. Place the deck within reach, and whenever encountering an art block, just pick a card (or a few!) and follow through with the prompts. Every card is playfully illustrated with the goal of bringing a smile to the readers’ faces.

Each “Knock the Block” deck contains 60 cards divided into 3 different categories: subject prompts, technique prompts, and self-care prompts.


Jana Thompson ’21 (UX Design MPS)

Mira is your virtual twin to help you meet your goals and take the breaks you need during your day. Every person can create their own unique avatar that gets through the day with them and through the ups and downs of life.

You create your own custom Mira avatar with a unique face, voice, and personality to help you set daily, ongoing, and long-term goals. Your Mira will check in with you throughout the day to see how you're doing and encourage you to accomplish what you mean to, but also to help you understand you and meet you where you're at.

With the Mira app, you will be able to track your goals, as well as look at your stress levels and well-being over time. 

Mira is meant to help your well-being by being an outside voice to give you the reminders and the encouragement you need.







Kristen Karlovich ’21 (Product Design BFA)

Pharma-D is a tool library of at home/take home medical devices that gives more widespread and easier access to taking care and monitoring an individuals health. Pharma-D does not replace urgent cares, hospitals, or average doctors offices, but rather enables people to make informative choices on their health care. 

There are so many medical devices on the market that most people don’t know they have access to. Everything from monitors that can detect cancers, to different types of electronic stethoscopes, and heart monitors that can detect heart attacks or emotional distress days in advance. 

Pharma-D would allow people to access and understand their own health. Pharma-D would allow individuals to make educated decisions and give professionals more insight on the health and care one needs. Pharma-D would help cut down on the cost of unnecessary, highly expensive testing, detrimental waiting times of tests, and be an aid to medical professionals and facilities.

Note: Storypets is no longer participating in the UP/Start program.


Monika Reddy Vootukuri ’21 (Graphic Design MFA)

Storypets are voice assistants that deliver bedtime stories to kids in the voice of the parent or the grandparent instead of a generic AI voice. The prototype is an attempt to design for joy, responding to the current landscape of voice computing and digital products. Storypets explores how families can use technology to share an inclusive and non-robotic experience with their kids. The product connects cultures and generations while redefining the rules in user experience design. Storypets is especially sensitive to family settings where diverse languages are spoken and standard diction or accents are not the norm.

The product works in conjunction with a mobile application. The parent records either a pre-written or a personal story in the mobile app, this story will be stored in the physical product (i.e the pet) and kids can choose to hear it whenever they want. Additionally, kids can narrate stories to the pet.

The UP/Start Venture Program & MICApreneurship are generously supported by The Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation. For more information, visit https://micapreneurship.weebly.com/