New Mentors Draw on Experience Starting Medical Device Company

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Though Levi DeLuke (’14) and Ellen Su (’13) started recently as Mentors in Residence at Tsai CITY, there is no need to welcome them. They are familiar faces at what was once the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute where, as undergrads in 2014, they launched Wellinks, a wearable medical device company.

“We are a very Yale team,” Ellen says. “We started in 2013 with the CEID [Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design] Summer Fellowship with the initial idea of working in scoliosis.”

Levi and Ellen’s collaboration began when they founded Yale’s Design for America studio. Upon receiving the CEID Summer Fellowship, they were able to work on their own project.

Ellen recounts, “We were interested in design thinking, but we wanted the opportunity to dive a lot deeper into that and see what it took to actually make something from an initial problem all the way out to implementing a solution to that problem beyond the confines of the normal school semester.”

During their time at the CEID, Levi and Ellen came up with the idea that would become “Cinch,” a Bluetooth device that can be retrofitted to any back brace on the market and connects to software that monitors patients for proper brace fit and usage.

Levi explains, “One of the big problems for kids with scoliosis, and I was one, is that they don’t wear their back braces as often or as tightly as they should, and that leads to a direct increase in the likelihood of them needing a surgery.”

Wellinks uses their expertise in design and engineering to innovate within the healthcare and medical device spaces.

For teams looking to follow their lead and venture into both software and hardware production, they recommend seeking mentors.

“We ran into a lot of challenges on our way, especially being in healthcare and being in hardware,” Ellen says. “I think those are two extremely difficult areas to get started in, particularly for a startup run by students. We’ve learned a lot about that in the past few years, so we’re excited to share that knowledge.” 

Levi agrees. “I would encourage teams to reach out to both of us or anyone here at CITY,” he says. “I think that as a student, people often underestimate how much the other side really enjoys talking to you—mentors or companies. We really enjoy talking to teams, and you have a singularly unique time as a student when you can email anyone in the world and say, ‘I’m a student. Can you help me out? Can I get your feedback?’ So come chat!”

You can sign up for Ellen’s and Levi’s office hours here and here, respectively.

Emma Chanen is the Digital Media Intern at Tsai CITY.

Mark Drozdowski