Virtual reality surgery simulation company wins Buffalo Student Sandbox

Ben Sainsbury, founder of Virtual SurgerySIM, holding a huge check.

Ben Sainsbury, founder of Virtual SurgerySIM, poses with a check for winning the top prize. Credit: Nancy J. Parisi.

Release Date: August 5, 2016

The firm’s first product — a simulator for urologists performing kidney stone operations — is set to be tested in trials in hospitals in Buffalo and Toronto.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Virtual SurgerySIM, a startup led by a PhD student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, took the top prize at this year’s Buffalo Student Sandbox contest.

The competition — run by Blackstone LaunchPad at UB and the Western New York Incubator Network — is the culmination of the eight-week Buffalo Student Sandbox summer program, in which student entrepreneurs gain valuable knowledge about starting a business through coursework and connections to experts at UB and in Western New York.

A panel of business experts picked Virtual SurgerySIM as the winner of the Sandbox contest’s top prize of $3,000 after hearing pitches from four student-led teams on UB’s North Campus on Aug. 4.

The company is building virtual reality surgical training simulators that can be used to train and rehearse for operations. The firm’s first product — a simulator for urologists performing kidney stone operations — is set to be tested in trials in hospitals in Buffalo and Toronto, said founder Ben Sainsbury.

The Sandbox contest’s second-place prize of $1,500 went to Women Engineers Pakistan, a leadership development organization encouraging woman participation in STEM fields in Pakistan. The organization was created by Ramla Qureshi, a UB graduate student in civil engineering, and Jaganathan Raghupathy, a UB graduate student in supply chains and operations management.

Memory Fox, a company developing a cloud-based application to capture and preserve a family’s oral history, took the third-place award of $500. The firm was founded by UB MBA students Lindsay Macaluso and Chris Miano.

The Buffalo Student Sandbox, now in its second year of operation, is open to companies led by students from UB and other colleges and universities. It pays participants $300 a week in exchange for attending classes, seminars and other events designed to help them navigate the dynamic environment of creating a successful business.

Teams work independently on their ventures and complete an eight-session course developed by the School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Last year’s winner, the student-led Buffalo Automation Group, went on to win UB’s 2016 Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition, and also took home a first place prize in the information technology/software category at the 2016 annual New York Business Plan Competition. The company is developing self-navigation technology for ships.

The Buffalo Student Sandbox is funded by the Western New York Incubator Network, a group of nine incubators managed by UB’s Office of Economic Development.

The Sandbox is led by Blackstone LaunchPad at UB, a university program that’s funded by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Initiative to help students, faculty, staff and alumni develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets.

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