The Clinton Foundation and Verizon agreed that Peek AR showed promise. To the team’s delight, they were awarded a grant to aid in further developing their tech and invited to participate in a summer incubator, receiving mentorship in technology and business development from experts at Verizon. They also drew on the expertise of Duke ECE faculty member Martin Brooke, who has experience with tech competitions, as well as Duke Director of Student Accessibility Services Cort Schneider, who connected them with students who might also be potential future customers. Those students gave the team valuable insights about their own needs and the utility of Peek AR’s technology.
“The end goal is to produce a viable product,” explained Boampong. “At the end of the challenge, Peek AR should be marketable enough to draw more funding.”
When the Peek AR team competes in the final round of the Social Innovation Challenge this fall, it will be in pursuit of a large purse. And while the prize money is definitely exciting, the team agreed, it’s not their sole driver.
“Our main goal is to improve people’s lives, and we can use technology to do that,” said Boampong.
"You have to believe in your own ability to succeed, despite the odds."
This mindset—of wanting to create things that work—is typical of an engineer, Glass said. But he believes that the “entrepreneurial playground” offered by Duke gives students opportunities to discover whether they have the other qualities that will be necessary to launch their own companies later.
“As an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable and excited to wear a lot of hats, because you are going to be emptying the trash, signing the lease, raising the money, and developing the technology,” said Glass. “And you have to be risk-tolerant. You have to be comfortable with the idea that the odds are against you, statistically—you’re probably going to fail. But also, you really need to be an optimist. You have to believe in your own ability to succeed, despite the odds.”
“Our next few months and years will be riddled with failures, but every failure will give us an opportunity to learn and grow,” agreed Lamba. “It’ll be a lot of hard work with many challenges that we can’t anticipate, but that’s the fun of it. The goal is always to get to a viable product and then we will finally be at the beginning of our journey.”