From failure to feat: HPA student sees failure as opportunity

Jessica Haasz
December 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When it comes to entrepreneurship, many see the endpoint, but rarely the full journey. For Devanshi Agnihotri, a junior in health policy and administration and a student entrepreneur, it’s about seeing an idea come to life through all stages — even if one of those stages is failure.

“For me, what I really want to do is see an idea through from the very beginning and how it’s executed at the very end,” said Agnihotri. “I don’t really know what happens in the middle, and for me, that is what I am learning right now.”

Agnihotri is a co-founder of Maverick Software Systems with Joel Seidel, a junior in information sciences and technology, to develop a software program that aims to improve the health care industry.

The software program wasn’t the first product the student entrepreneurs were trying to create, however.

Brainstorming ideas began when Seidel approached Agnihotri about the Smeal Supply Chain Pitch Competition. Seidel asked if Agnihotri would be interested in being his partner for the competition. The pair focused on health IT, a combination of their respective expertise.

“Initially, we didn’t know what we wanted to do. For the first we weeks we spent a lot of late nights in the library reviewing articles and books. Our goal was to find a specific problem and specific solution for it,” said Agnihotri. “Our initial idea was medical device tracking in the supply chain industry.”

“In theory, our first idea was good, but in reality, it didn’t work out. We needed a lot of entities in the supply chain industry to come together and work with us on this and we were having difficulty finding just a few,” according to Agnihotri.

“With our first idea, we spent a year and a half on it. We were sure we knew all facets of the health care supply chain industry, and spent a lot of time dismissing the fact that it wasn’t going to work, just because we were so attached to that idea. It was like a child to me.”

The pair then pivoted from their medical device tracking idea and started focusing on the quality improvement side of health care. They took what they learned from the original project and began to work on their new idea — a software program that takes clinical data from patient-reported outcomes and quality statistics that will provide analytics to a quality administrator.

This led to founding of Maverick Software Systems.

Agnihotri and Seidel are currently developing the software and, to date, have worked to produce a product to that aligns with issues that organizations may have. Their goal is to have a functioning prototype by the end of 2019.

The experience allowed Agnihotri to not only experience the creation and business side of things, but also taught her how to handle the difficulties of entrepreneurship. The two spent a year and a half on their original product, and felt disheartened and setback when they learned their assumptions were wrong.

Stepping away from a failed idea can leave much room for doubt, but for Agnihotri the best part of the experience was figuring out that they were right about something.

Throughout their experience, they also met other entrepreneurs through the Invent Penn State Summer Founders Program. The program, administered through Happy Valley LaunchBox, provides student teams with $10,000 to develop their startup, nonprofit or social venture over the summer in State College. Recently, through the two received $2,000 to help move their initiatives forward through the 2019 Venture & IP Conference Student Startup Showcase in October. The program helped them make new connections in their customer discovery, and see firsthand the journey other entrepreneurs have gone through.

“I think being an entrepreneur is about taking risks, because no one is there to tell you what to do,” noted Agnihotri. “As a result, you kind of have to explore an entire industry you know a little bit about all by yourself, or with another person. What usually happens is you end up failing a lot.”

Last Updated December 19, 2019