The past couple of months have been a whirlwind for us at Puffin. Things have really taken off after receiving the Department of Veterans Affairs grant. Puffin has now grown to a team of six, and we successfully competed into a finalist spot at MassChallenge (MC)! Here is a brief review of our successes!
After receiving the VA grant, Adriana and I excitedly began our employee search. Our first hire was Ali Shah, an upcoming senior at Worcester Polytech majoring in mechanical engineering (ME). Ali impressed us with his vast knowledge not just on ME, but also electrical engineering and data analysis. Ali had so many strong attributes he easily won us over. Ali is from Pakistan and will be with us well into the fall.
Our second hire was Marian Heman-Ackah, who is our first real employee. Marian just graduated from MIT and during her schooling has worked on similar assistive technology projects. Marian is not only incredibly smart, but also has a bubbly personality that lights up a room. Her excitement and motivation are going to be a huge value to this project and many others. Marian is from what I call the “south”, but she informed me that northern Virginia does not qualify as such. I guess my definition of the south, anything below New Jersey, does not fly. 😊
While we were on our hiring initiative, we were also notified that we were invited to pitch for a spot in MassChallenge. Adriana and I had never pitched together before, and the stakes were high for our first one. This pitch determined if we would proceed into the MC accelerator program, something that we knew would help us reach our goals. With the nerves that always prevail in times like these, Adriana and I presented our project to a panel of judges and when finished we left the room feeling confident. Why? Because as we left one of the judges told us that we inspired her. This one statement made us know that even if we did not get accepted into MC, we were still going the right direction. However, shortly after the pitch we were told that we were a finalist in the competition.
Our last hire, was another intern Andonios Kouninis. We first spoke with Andonios while he was in Greece working on a business plan for an olive company. Andonios is an engineer, but also has a business focus so he will be working with Adriana and I on all of our operational needs. Andonios is a New Hampshire native and a rising senior at Worcester Polytech.
Last week, we began MassChallenge and most of our team worked together to begin solidifying the specs and structure of the Puffin. We should scale very quickly now. Especially with Bruce, our software engineer, continuing to build the brain of the Puffin, a compliment with the new hires working on the other various aspects of the project. This is an exciting time for the Puffin and we will be blogging our journey every step of the way! Make sure to like our Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow us on twitter and Instagram!