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Company Started by Professor Wins Women’s Business Plan Competition

Company Started by Professor Wins Women’s Business Plan Competition

Prof. Carol Espy-Wilson
Prof. Carol Espy-Wilson

OmniSpeech LLC, a company developed by Professor Carol Espy-Wilson (ECE/ISR) and ECE alumnus and research associate Tarun Pruthi, won the grand prize in the Rockville Economic Development Inc. (REDI) StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition. Winners were recognized at a ceremony on July 21 at the Sphinx Club at Franklin Square in Washington, D.C.

OmniSpeech, a start up company in the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) VentureAccelerator program, is developing speech extraction technology for cellular and similar communications.

The company was selected from among 52 applicants and nine semifinalists, who made investor presentations before a panel of judges. OmniSpeech's award includes $10,000 from EagleBank, a $10,000 advertising package from Comcast Spotlight, one year of virtual incubator membership from the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, and nine months of a customized virtual office solution from Intelligent Office.

"We are honored to be selected among so many compelling companies as winners of the StartRight! competition," said Dr. Espy-Wilson, the founder of OmniSpeech. "We have a disruptive technology that can benefit the entire cellular communications industry and dramatically improve assistive devices. This funding will help us bring our much-needed technology more quickly to market."

OmniSpeech has developed a method for extracting speech from noise, making communications such as cell phone conversations clear, even in environments such as high wind or large crowds. The technology can be applied to a wide range of audio and voice-oriented commercial devices, including hearing aids.

"The StartRight! judges were impressed by OmniSpeech’s capable and experienced management team and advisory board, as well as their innovative technology that meets a clear market need," said Lynne Benzion, associate director for REDI, which founded the competition seven years ago. "OmniSpeech stood out based on the uniqueness of the speech extraction approach, which is very different than noise suppression technologies that are already on the market. The judges also valued the fact that the product design fits with existing cell phone architecture, making it easy to adopt."  

Founded in 2009, OmniSpeech won the high technology category and $25,000, as well as a $15,000 Warren Citrin Social Impact Award in the 2010 University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition. The company's team also includes Tarun Pruthi, a research associate in the department of electrical and computer engineering.

OmniSpeech joined VentureAccelerator this past spring. VentureAccelerator is a fast-track, early admission program tied to Mtech's Technology Advancement Program, the first technology company incubator in Maryland. VentureAccelerator helps University of Maryland inventors speed the process of creating ventures from their technologies by systematically guiding and coaching inventors through new business processes such as sound business planning, understanding customers and markets, setting goals and priorities, acquiring skills and recruiting talent, and raising capital. Companies such as Lurn Inc., a 2009 Inc. 500 company, have benefitted from the expertise VentureAccelerator provides.

July 22, 2010


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