Growing up in New Providence, New Jersey, Paul Franco ‘22 candidly describes himself as being “always a little bit on the weird side.” He says, “I was always quick witted and light on my feet. I tried to figure things out faster than other people.” However, Franco, now a senior at Syracuse University majoring in physics, never saw himself using his quick wit as an entrepreneur. “Overall, I liked the idea of taking ownership of a company or an idea, but I didn’t know how to do that or where to start.” That has all changed, as he now has become an award winner innovator and inventor.
Funny enough, Franco started as an accounting major in Whitman because his father worked in finance. After freshman year, he realized he wasn’t passionate about the field and switched to physics where he has blossomed since.
During the summer of 2020, Franco was looking to apply his science skills in a way that was challenging and exciting. He signed up for the Invent@SU program, a program that helps transform undergraduate students into inventors as they design, prototype and pitch original devices. The program was pushed back to the next year due to COVID-19, but Franco was still excited to get involved. After meeting his co-founders Zach Stahl and Anthony Mazzacane, the team went to work coming up with an invention and prototyping.
Franco says, “We had only 48 hours to come up with an idea, but we felt we found a good idea that has a real impact.”
They came up with HydroHealth, a wearable dehydration monitor. Dehydration stood out as a concern for their team as 80% of NCAA athletes had suffered from dehydration. They wanted to design a wearable device that could monitor an athlete’s hydration level so coaches and trainers would have better information and keep athletes safe. They tried to compile as much data as possible to prove the product’s validity, even having co-founder Zach Stahl go on the treadmill for hours on end to conduct trials. After winning 1st place at Invent@SU, they felt that their product was validated and there were looking for a way to continue their work and explore commercialization opportunities.
Franco and his team found the Blackstone LaunchPad, which he says has really helped push HydroHealth to what it is today. He says, “What has really pushed us is connecting with LaunchPad mentors and preparing for venture competitions held by the LaunchPad. As a physics student I have presented academic research I’ve conducted but pitching a product and business roadmap is a whole other nerve-wracking yet rewarding experience.” He also mentions how the business resources in the LaunchPad from branding to finance has really helped HydroHealth solidify themselves as legitimate business. The group is also the recipient of LaunchPad Innovation Grants which is helping with prototyping and legal incorporation costs.
Franco and HydroHealth are excited to be participating in the upcoming 2022 ACC InVenture Prize competition hosted by the LaunchPad in February and vying for a chance to make it the ACC finals. He says, “I’m excited to take this company as far as possible. We’ve made a ton of progress and I’m just excited to see where it leads.”
HydroHealth is looking for help with branding, packaging design, graphic design, and other skills, so if you’re interested in helping this dynamic team, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Story by Jack Lyons ‘22, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied