We had the chance to catch up with 2017 Student Entrepreneur National Champion, Amr Abdelgawad, on where he and his business NERv Technologies Inc. is now.

Tell us about your business.

1.7 million patients undergo high-risk abdominal surgeries annually in the US. These patients are especially susceptible to post-surgical complications. One of those complications, known as anastomotic, or gastrointestinal leaks, affects roughly 8% of those patients and results in the death of 13,000 patients annually. Current complication detection techniques are delayed, reactive, and non-specific. NERv is developing a smart catheter system embedded with micro-sensors capable of detecting the complication as soon as it occurs.

Where did your entrepreneurial journey begin? Tell us about that first customer or first project.

My entrepreneurial journey started when the problem was brought to my attention by my co-founder, who was introduced to the problem by his mother, an ob-gyn surgeon. Youssef’s mother identified the complication as the complication feared the most by many general surgeons and one that she personally had concerns about. Given our background in Nanotechnology Engineering and in the field of biosensors, we were determined to develop a solution to this problem. No one deserves to die because of a preventable complication.

How did you find out about the Student Entrepreneur National Competition? Did you nominate yourself or did someone nominate you?

I was nominated.

You were 1 of 12 Student Entrepreneur finalists to be flown to Vancouver compete at the Enactus Canada National Exposition. Do you have any tips from your application? How did you make yours shine?

One of the most important things that any entrepreneur needs to have and eventually demonstrate in the application is their passion for what they are doing. It is very important to highlight in the application how determined you are to make your business succeed and how you got to where you are. In addition, judges need to see that you understand where the gap in the market is and how you will be able to fill that void with your solution. Not only that, but you also need to demonstrate how you will commercialize that solution to ensure that eventually your product/service gets to the end-user.

You did a great job presenting on stage – any tips to nail that presentation?

Practice, practice, and more practice. I tend to practice the company’s pitch on a bi-weekly basis so I am always prepared to pitch the business idea in front of any prospective investor or stakeholder in the industry. It is even better if you can practice in front of an audience to prepare you for a pitch in front of a large crowd.

How did the Student Entrepreneur National Competition win help you and your business?

The Student Entrepreneur National Competition helped open more opportunities for myself and for my business. The exposure gained from winning the competition helped increase the awareness of our company and our mission. In addition, it expanded our network of influential decision makers who helped move our company forward.

What were some highlights of the Student Entrepreneur National Competition for you?

One of the main highlights for me was the connections I made with the student entrepreneurs during the competition. We are still in touch with each other and follow-up on each other’s progress. Entrepreneurship is difficult and its path can be long and tedious. Surrounding yourself with the right individuals can help you grow as a person, an entrepreneur, and make your road towards success much easier.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m extremely proud of what our team has achieved to date. We have successfully developed a fully functional device that has been tested and validated in an animal model. Despite being a heavily regulated and complex industry with one of the lowest success rates, our team has never lost its grit and motivation. We are determined more than ever to see this company fulfil its mission. I am very proud of that.

What’s next for your business?

We aim to complete our animal studies in the upcoming year in order to prepare our device for regulatory approval and for commercialization in the near future.

If people want to learn more about your business, how can they do so?

People can learn more about our business through our website and social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook).