Everyone has certain people who make large impacts on their lives. People who are close to us when we grow up, teachers, mentors and oftentimes family members.  For Yasemin Sarigul-Klijn, a Biomedical Engineering PhD student at University of California, Irvine, her grandmother was a big influence on her life. Suffering from immobility, Yasemin’s grandmother inspired her to create new and innovative technology which is positioned to positively change the lives of millions who are confined to wheelchairs.

Recently winning the Orange County region of the Aging 2.0 business startup competition held at CalIt2, Yasemin and her company Red Lion Robotics stood toe-to-toe with five other hand selected startups that are all trying to make a positive change for the world’s aging demographic. Red Lion Robotics won the competition and now moves on in the nationwide competition put on by Aging2.0 to find the new technologies to help support the aging populations.

To cast your vote for Red Lion Robotics to help them reach the next round of the national competition, you can vote here: aging2.com/gss/vote/redlionrobotics

Red Lion Robotics is a robotics company dedicated to bringing accessible devices for rehabilitation and assistance for walking disability. Their main product is GRAM, a low cost wheelchair attachment developed and named in honor of Yasemin’s grandmother, that provides motivational mobility and therapy to help patients heal from walking disability.

“I want it to become the “Apple” of rehabilitation,” says Yasemin.

The Red Lion Robotics team has had a long and exciting path to get to where they are today, and along their journey, they have taken full advantage of the resources available to UCI student entrepreneurs like the ANTrepreneur Center and Applied Innovation.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL) had a chance to sit down with Yasemin to learn more about her story, her inspiration, and her vision for helping those who are bound to wheelchairs to lead more meaningful lives with more utility.

Yasemin started her first day of school as a PhD student with her proposal for GRAM in hand, knowing that she wanted to include it as part of her PhD research. Over the course of the next two years, multiple proof-of-concepts of GRAM were built and the project continues to gain significant traction.

Entering into the Paul Merage Business Plan Competition helped Yasemin build her core team.  

The ANTrepreneur Center helped the team hash out business plan, marketing strategies, and just as importantly helped keep her motivated during the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

“If it weren’t for their support I wouldn’t have been able to succeed,” Yasemin says about the friendly staff at the ANTrepreneur Center. “They gave me validation and support when I doubted myself and felt like things were impossible.”

Entering and making it to the finals of both the Paul Merage competition and the Beall Design competition, Red Lion Robotics won second place in the Beall Design contest and used the prize money to build a better prototype of GRAM for clinical testing.

The team then connected with Doug Crawford, Senior Licensing Officer at UCI Applied Innovation, to work on patenting the technology behind GRAM, and Yasemin leveraged his mentorship to help them win the I-Corp Grant, which is funding for a rigorous NSF-sponsored commercialization program to do product-to-market fit for GRAM.

Realizing the importance of guidance from experienced mentors, Yasemin connected with Curt Deckert, and John Lasko, both Experts in Residence (EiR) at the Cove. Yasemin asked for their mentorship, and they helped encourage her to participate in multiple pitching opportunities, like 1 Million Cups, a community event where entrepreneurs gain valuable feedback from peers.

Yasemin then decided to take Professor Bill Morris’ entrepreneurship class where she gained another ally in him, and met Hwan Heo through the class, who ended up becoming CFO.  

Throughout the 2016-2017 academic year, Red Lion continued to gain traction.  They appeared on KUCI as a result of winning the GPS-Biomed Elevator Pitch competition and they competed in Founder’s Frenzy, The Beall Hardware Competition, The New Venture Competition, Tech Surge, and The Blum Hardware for Good Competition.  

Building on this momentum, Red Lion applied for, and was accepted into the Aging 2.0 competition. Winning the Orange County regional competition now brings Red Lion Robotics to the next stage of the national competition where she will be up against other regional winners from across the United States.

The next round of voting for Global Startup Search will take place June 1st through August 15th. The online voting will occur on Aging2.0’s website where people can vote for their favorite aging technology solutions. Winners of the online voting will go on to become finalists, competing for $20,000 in prize money.

Starting off as a loving promise made to a grandmother over ten years ago, Yasemin’s journey to help people in wheelchairs become more mobile, is one of passion and determination. Taking advantage of the many resources at UCI, and working with the many people at UCI who support young entrepreneurs, Yasemin’s vision is coming to life.

To help Red Lion Robotics make it to the next round of the competition, you can vote here: aging2.com/gss/vote/redlionrobotics

***Anyone in the world can vote up to one time per day, every day until 11:59pm Eastern Time on August 15, 2017.