Qingdao Startup Weekend Bio-Sentinel Suprise

A novel, low cost, remote sensing based pollution mapping system

Plants with genetically modified protein receptors which cease chlorophyll production when in contact with heavy metals are monitored by a hyperspectral imagery equipped drone which feeds data to a GIS based geostatistical software package which provides live monitoring, early warning, and pathway prediction modeling to clients.


Last weekend my friend Simon and I traveled to Qingdao and won a Startup Weekended competition. This was a spur of the moment thing, I hadn’t considered Startup Weekend events before because I assumed they were very app/mobile/IT centered and therefore that my particular set of skills wouldn’t be very useful.  What other kind of startup could you actually start in two days?

Simon asked, I said why not, so we went. At the event they played a game where random groups of people are given two random words, we got “flower” and “smart”, I came up with an idea for flowers that change colour in the presence of pollution. Basically I came up with a commercial process involving these theoretical flowers just assuming the technologies existed and worked together.

20141219_231002My proposal, I was worried when so many people voted for it.

We won the competition using this idea, calling the startup Bio-Sentinel. More than one investor has contacted me, which is a problem because I am still not very convinced the idea works. During the competition I discovered a Colorado State University paper, Programmable Ligand Detection System in Plants (Antunes, 2011) in which the authors reprogram protein receptors to cancel chlorophyll production in the presence of heavy metals.  This was a huge relief. The GIS based geostatistical and predictive modeling stuff wasn’t really a problem.  The hardware is expensive, but not a problem. The business model/value proposition is quite interesting.

Our vision. John and Larry actually made part of the program and the site.

My team was excellent, Keith, a Hong Kong student and mutual acquaintance through Simon, was able to interview people and select the most appropriate team for our project. Miss Dan did an excellent job presenting.

mmexport1419074391796Dan, Beibei, Keith, Seth, Simon, John, Larry

Often we were the last ones to leave, which my team sometimes took note of.

mmexport1419313682967That’s me in the red jacket. Mr. Serious, ’till 2am.

We were mentioned in several news articles, though the authors often didn’t do a good job of getting my name, Simon’s name, or the name of our university correct. For instance in one article they just call me “Captain America”, and specifically mention Keith’s school in Hong Kong, but say I go to “a university in Ningbo”.

Article on our team, “Captain America”

Article specifically on Keith

Got my university correct in this one

Mentioned in this article

Last one

Monday morning before our noon flight we visited a sporting goods equipment factory owned by a woman we met on the airplane to Qingdao. What else were we going to do, sleep late?

20141222_103127The factory could use some maintenance 


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