Vanderbilt team first to win VentureWell E-Team Stage 2 Grant for tech-driven environmental monitoring startup Intelligent Systems

Intelligent Systems, an indoor air quality monitoring startup founded by Tim Darrah, a Ph.D. student in computer science and a NASA fellow, has won a stage 2 grant from VentureWell. Intelligent Systems is the first Vanderbilt team to be accepted into this program. Formerly known as the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, VentureWell funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.

Tim Darrah
Tim Darrah

Intelligent Systems uses real-time performance tracking and predictive analytics to protect communities and properties from experiencing poor indoor air quality. The company is developing software technology that uses internet-connected sensor devices and deep learning algorithms to monitor HVAC systems and proactively identifies indoor air quality problems. Vanderbilt alumnus Teddy Dinker, MBA’20, serves as the company’s chief revenue officer, and current undergraduate student in chemical engineering and computer science Kenneth Konam and electrical engineering Ph.D. student Diego Manzanas-Lopez are new members of the team.

Darrah grew Intelligent Systems through the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center. By participating in the Wond’ry’s Post Launch programming, Darrah was able to connect with experts in entrepreneurship who helped his team successfully complete the highly competitive National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program. Working with the Wond’ry staff has been an indispensable resource, Darrah said. Working with mentors and advisers at the innovation center has given Darrah and his co-founders a chance to think about all the details and nuances essential to a growing business, he said.

“One of the most exciting aspects of being involved with the Wond’ry is meeting people like Intelligent Systems’ Tim Darrah,” said Deanna Meador, the Wond’ry’s director of entrepreneurship. “Tim noticed an unmet need and took action to develop a solution with the potential to provide a positive impact in the world. It takes a lot of determination to bring an idea to fruition under any circumstance, but this is especially true while completing a Ph.D. program and navigating the supply chain challenges of the last year and a half. We look forward to watching the continued growth of Intelligent Systems.

“We have been impressed with the Intelligent Systems team under Tim Darrah’s leadership,” said Tricia Compas-Markman, VentureWell senior program officer. “We are excited to work with Tim and his team, who are very coachable and passionate about building a solution to proactively identify problems in indoor air quality.”

The VentureWell grant includes an award of up to $20,000, participation in a workshop to develop and validate their business model, and multiple coaching sessions from seasoned entrepreneurs. Intelligent Systems will use the award to procure devices for machine learning algorithm development and to hire another student worker.

Through the E-Team program, VentureWell has trained nearly 400 student teams and more than 800 student innovators. Startups working with VentureWell have raised close to $200 million in follow-on funding and have launched more than 180 ventures.

At Vanderbilt, Darrah’s research focus is in cyber-physical systems and the development and application of algorithms handling prognostics and health management and decision-making for aerospace vehicles. He has worked on research projects in these areas sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, Department of Defense and NASA. Darrah is a U.S. Army veteran and served in Afghanistan.