Budding entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to develop portable bacterial diagnostic tests and adjustable eyeglasses because of an award made possible by Del Mar husband and wife Suren G. Dutia and Jas K. Grewal.
Nanopore Diagnostics and ViFlex were the inaugural winners of the Suren G. Dutia and Jas K. Grewal Global Impact Award from the Skandalaris Center at Washington University in St. Louis. Local entrepreneurs and investors Dutia and Grewal established the award to give promising entrepreneurs the necessary tools to foster innovation and solve real world problems.
“It gives me a great deal of pleasure to help these bright, talented individuals,” Dutia said.
“The winners that were selected were great,” Grewal added. “They really have the potential to make a difference.”
Nanopore received $40,000 to develop a rapid and portable bacterial diagnostic test, which aims to take the guesswork out of prescribing antibiotics. ViFlex received $10,000 to develop low-cost, adjustable eyeglasses as part of a scalable and sustainable solution to reduce the burden of poor vision for the 700 million in the developing world.
A panel of judges reviewed poster boards and listened to elevator pitches from six finalists before selecting the winners during the award ceremony Oct. 6 at the Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center at Washington University.
“I’m pleased with the way it all came together,” Grewal said. “Everyone did their part and the entrepreneurs were amazing. There are lots of amazing ideas out there.”
Presented by the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the Suren G. Dutia and Jas K. Grewal Global Impact Award was established last year with a $1,025,000 gift from the couple.
Open to Washington University students, post doctoral students and alumni who graduated within the last five years, the award competition was intended for entrepreneurs who are using technology to develop products and services to spur economic growth. After finalists were selected in March, they were connected to mentors throughout the country who advised them on their ventures.
“It’s more than just a prize,” Grewal said. “We wanted to incorporate a mentoring component because we feel, in order to create a culture of entrepreneurship, it takes a community.”
Born and raised in Bombay, Dutia came to the United States after graduating high school to study at Washington University in St. Louis. He holds three degrees from the university — bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and a bachelor’s degree in political science. He also received a master’s in business administration from the University of Dallas.
Currently a senior fellow with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Dutia invests in a number of startup ventures and is on the board of several firms.
Most recently, he served as chief executive officer of TiE, or The Indus Entrepreneurs, Global. With 61 chapters in 18 countries, Silicon Valley-based TiE is one of the largest nonprofit organizations fostering entrepreneurship globally. Earlier in his career, he served as president and CEO of Xscribe, a closed captioning company, and held various leadership positions with Dynatech Corporation.
“At a given point, it has to be about more than your individual success,” Dutia said. “Many entrepreneurs reach a point where they think they are the reasons for success and they forget that it’s the education they got, it’s our system of free enterprise, it’s our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and it’s access to a system that provides us guidance and direction. Most of us who have been fortunate recognize that we have ridden on the shoulders of a lot of people, so it’s our time to do the same for others who are trying to make it in life.”
Dutia moved to Del Mar in 1989 and has been married to Grewal for 22 years.
Born in India, Grewal grew up in Canada. She earned a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Toronto and received a master’s in business administration from Golden Gate University.
Before retiring in 2001, she had a nearly 25-year banking career with First Interstate Bank of California and its successor entity, Wells Fargo Bank, in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego.
“There are many others like us who are blessed and in a position to make a difference, but often don’t know how to go about doing it,” Dutia said. “I hope this award inspires others to give back.”
For more about the Suren G. Dutia and Jas K. Grewal Global Impact Award, visit https://sc.wustl.edu/Programs/Pages/default.aspx.